Several EU funded research project have been developed on different aspects related to desertification and land degradation in Mediterranean ecosystems. It is now well understood that socioeconomic impact triggers degradation processes by imposing disturbances in the complex interactions of physiographic factors like plant growth, soil formation, water availability and erosion processes. The first theoretical assumption behind this proposal is that the understanding of ecosystems changes, needs to be based on the analysis of vegetation dynamics as it is plant cover which protects the soil from erosion and determines ecosystems functions. The second assumption is that computer based simulation modelling is now generally recognized as a very important tool in ecological research. It must be recognized that below ground processes represent a big hole in the current knowledge and yet they fit very clearly into the framework of desertification research established over the last decade. This study will try to be cutting new ground by addressing these problems, but starting from the strenght of established results. The following will be the specific tasks to be achieved: Modelling work will implement a new modelling environment and new models of plant community dynamics including below-ground processes and roots on the base of existing simulation software (Modmed II project). At the individual plant level ecophysiological studies will be performed on biomass allocation carbon and nitrogen partitioning. At the plant community level information will be collected on seed bank, seedling establishment, and below-ground structures and processes. At the vegetation landscape level pedoanthracological analysis will extend the historical analysis of vegetation changes and satellite remote sensing work will implement the spatial scaling up of the vegetation landscape analysis from the study sites to regional level. Both a better ecological understanding and the availability of reliable models are necessary for scientists in order to suggest proper environmental management of Mediterranean ecosystems and to predict the effects of different land use practices. This complies with the general objective of the Environment and Climate Programme and also with the required improvement of communication between environmental science and policy as recently addressed by the International Desertification Conference held in Crete in November 1997.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
50018 Scandicci Firenze
EH9 3JG Edinburgh
08193 Bellaterra - Barcelona