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The degradation of the permanent semi-natural vegetation and the resulting acceleration of soil degradation and erosion processes constitute major elements of land degradation in the Mediterranean basin. The degradation processes exhibit an enormous spatial variability; degraded areas are found in the direct vicinity of apparently stable ecosystems, and both degrading or recovering systems may occur under a large variety of climatic and physiographic conditions. It is not yet clear how findings from field studies at local and patch-scale can be extrapolated and upscaled to relatively large areas, but it is believed that remote sensing can significantly contribute to solve this problem. Satellite remote sensing also provides the means for a cartographic inventory of degraded areas, and is virtually the only data source which permits monitoring of land degradation dynamics. The development of suitable indices and response units and their interpretation in the thematic context of land degradation monitoring require a conceptual framework which permits concise conclusions about land surface conditions. The incorporation of extensive, regionalised ancillary information (for example, climatic records, lithology, topographic information) is required to account for the given physiographic variability. In addition, a retrospective analysis of existing archives of satellite data (for example, Landsat-TM since 1983) is of utmost importance in understanding the dynamics of degradation processes and the changes which have led to the present situation.

Additional information

Authors: HILL J, University of Trier, Remote Sensing Department (DE);SOMMER S, JRC Ispra (IT);MEHL W, JRC Ispra (IT);MÉGIER J, JRC Ispra (IT);IMESON A, University of Amsterdam, Landscape and Environmental Research Group (NL)
Bibliographic Reference: Paper presented: European Geophysical Society, XXth General Assembly, Hamburg (DE), April 3-7, 1995
Availability: Available from (1) as Paper EN 38941 ORA
Record Number: 199510675 / Last updated on: 1995-07-07
Original language: en
Available languages: en