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Abstract

Southern Europe is influenced mainly by a Mediterranean climate, with cool humid winters and warm dry summers. Soils are diverse, being shallow on slopes, often associated with rock outcrops, but deep and fertile in the valleys, where most of the crops are grown. Adequate soil fertility is essential to ensure the most effective use of the limited plant available water.

From the geomorphological point of view, the landscape is very dissected, and frequently rugged. Natural vegetation is typically macchia mediterranea at elevations from sea level to 600 � 800m s.l.m., with deciduous and coniferous forests found at higher altitudes. Natural pastures occur at high elevations (>1000m). Geologically, limestone and calcareous rocks inter-bedded with shale, siltstones, sandstones, and claystones dominate the area. However, acid and igneous rocks are present as well. Many of the soils in the valleys are of alluvial origin, while those in the foothills are colluvial.

The tourist industry is highly developed in the Mediterranean basin and there is still huge potential for further development. This is essential to the economies of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea but, from an environmental standpoint, this can have negative impacts. These essentially fragile environments have been under the influence of human occupation for at least 3 thousand years and the resulting degradation, particularly in the last 50 years, is causing concern.

A rapid estimation of the current status of soil structure and fertility in Southern Europe indicates that there are some distinctly negative trends. Addressing the issue of soil quality in general, and that of organic matter content in particular, is therefore of high priority for planning the sustainable use of land resources.

Additional information

Authors: ZDRULI P, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra (IT);JONES R A J, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra (IT);MONTANARELLA L, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Ispra (IT)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 21083 EN (2004), 18 pp. Free of charge
Availability: Available from European Commission, JRC Knowledge Management Unit, Ispra (IT) Tel: +39 033278 9893 Fax: +39 033278 5409 E-mail: jrc-publications-office@ec.europa.eu or Bruxelles (BE) Tel: +32 2 295 76 24 Fax: +32 2 299 63 22
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