Large areas in the EU Mediterranean Countries show irnpoverished plant cover due to long-term anthropogenic disturbance and harsh environrnental conditions. It is widely accepted that vegetation is a major factor in controlling land degradation. The introduction of plants in degraded ecosystems could arneliorate the overall microclimatic and soil conditions.
Working hypothesis: Degradation processes on dry mediterranean lands leading to desertification can be reversed into aggradative processes by establishing (seeding or planting) adapted native tree and tall shrub species, especially deep rooting resprouters.
Specific objectives: This project will investigate innovative techniques for plant cultivation and plantation, and seeding, that will be tested in the field.
Plant species to be investigated include native tall shrubs and trees, especially adapted to dry mediterranean conditions. These species have deep rooting systems and resprouting capacity: carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), cork oak (Quercus suber), holm oak (Quercus ilex), mastic tree (Pistacia Ientiscus), kermes oak (Quercus coccifera) and the fodder shrub Medicago arborea.
The research will address the restoration of extremely degraded wildlands, representative of desertified areas in the Mediterranean Europe previously identified. These are:
- Areas under semiarid and dry subhumid climate, dwarf shrublands with poor plant cover on degraded soils, produced by a combination of long-term grazing and/or cropping: Alicante (Spain), Alentejo (Portugal).
- Areas under the transition between dry subhumid and semiarid (from fire prone to desertification prone lands), recurrently burned shrublands on vulnerable soils (Alicante, Spain).
- Overgrazed shrublands (semiarid to dry subhumid), including fire-grazing sequences (Lesvos, Greece).
For this purpose, the first set of experiments is devoted to the development of nursery techniques to optimize seedling and seed adaptation to the extremely limiting conditions in the field. This includes:
- seed pre-treatments for direct seeding.
- seedling preadaptation to stress in the nursery to minimize the transplanting shock.
- adapted container and nursery cultivation techniques for seedlings of species with taproot systems.
- endo- and ectomycorrhiza inoculation of seedlings.
The second set of experiments are related to the development of restoration field techniques:
- comparing seeding vs. seedling plantation, both in ecological and economical terms.
- microsite characteristics effects on plantation success.
- grazing exclusion combined with restoration techniques.
- amendments application in order to reduce water stress at the outplanting time and to improve soil fertility (sewage sludge).
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
AB9 1UD Aberdeen