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Mediterranean desertification and land use. Project 2: target areas

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Effectively responding to desertification in Europe

Desertification is a process caused by human or climatic factors that proves to be detrimental to both ecosystems and regional economies. Europe is also affected by desertification, and it is in answer to this fact that a group of researchers designed a procedural methodology that assesses potential responses and vulnerabilities of specific areas to desertification.

Climate Change and Environment

A consortium of Dutch, Greek, Spanish, British, Portuguese, and Italian professionals developed this procedure as a way of evaluating potential reactions of European regions to desertification drivers by taking into consideration "functional performance indicators". Specifically, the researchers analysed areas exhibiting the effects of desertification caused primarily by land use change or grazing. The foundation for this procedure lies in several theories, including hierarchy theory, ecological function, and the desertification response unit. In addition, this procedure could be very useful throughout Europe as it can be utilised in a vast array of situations. Of course, it is essential to confirm the functional indicators by using field data and models so as to analyse the area's response to desertification in both a temporal and spatial framework. The data used includes dynamic soil, hydrological and biological properties, and water and sediment sources and sinks. This process allows the determination of the loss of environmental and economic functions due to land use change or soil deterioration with respect to actual cultural or financial losses. In fact, this versatile methodology could prove a useful tool for comparing diverse regions, and provide a link between other socio-economic and biophysical procedures. A good example of this application is a series of studies conducted by these researchers where areas comprising different landscapes, lithological properties, and land use habits were considered using this procedure. Three European areas were analysed: Alentejo in Portugal, Guadalentin in Spain, and Lesvos in Greece. In essence, this innovative methodology could help save vital European regions from desertification.

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