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ESBN Working Group on Land Degradation. Proposed by: Pandi Zdruli, Selim Kapur and Luca Montanarella. Is it feasible? Is it needed? Who should participate? What could be the outputs and deliverables? Who needs them? How to use them?. Land/soil degradation.

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esbn working group on land degradation
ESBN Working Group on Land Degradation

Proposed by:

Pandi Zdruli, Selim Kapur and Luca Montanarella

Is it feasible?

Is it needed?

Who should participate?

What could be the outputs and deliverables?

Who needs them?

How to use them?

land soil degradation
Land/soil degradation
  • Inefficiency to maintain economic and ecological functions of land
  • Reduction capacity of the land to perform its functions and produce goods and services

Natural processes

(i.e. climate change, volcanoes, earthquakes)

Human-induced processes

Could mitigate (+) BUT could accelerate (-)

effects on natural processes

Land degradation

Resource base:

quantitative and qualitative changes

  • - Climate
  • Biosphere
  • Water
  • Soil
  • other

Soil degradation

Physical, chemical, and/or biological degradation of the SOIL  loss of its ability to fulfil its functions (productivity and environmental)

land degradation
Land degradation
  • Has received widespread debate at global level
  • Many definitions, often with distinctive disciplinary-oriented meaning
  • Few assessments, scattered data, some exclude important socio-economic considerations
  • Lack of monitoring systems
past assessments
Past assessments
  • Used different definitions of land degradation
  • Have been carried out with different methods - often considering only one aspect of land degradation (e.g. only soil degradation)
  • Often based on the risks of degradation rather than the actual state of the land
  • Use different scales and parameters to quantify the extent of degradation
  • Results are often not comparable
therefore we still don t know
Therefore we still don’t know…


  • What is the real magnitude/rate of land degradation (not only the risk of degradation)?
  • Where are the biggest problems: what do we need to manage, how, by whom, for how long?
  • How much does it cost to solve/prevent problems?
  • What are the benefits of acting or not?
  • How do we know if we are improving?
need for a new generation of land degradation assessments
Need for a new generation of Land Degradation assessments

Need for assessments that:

  • Use harmonised definitions and methods
  • Consider biophysical and socio-economic aspects
  • Use several disciplines to address the complexity of land degradation
  • Address different scales
  • Allow for data comparability
  • Make best use of information already available
what for
What for?
  • Identify a baseline to:
    • Establish priorities based on cost-benefit analyses
    • Decide on best actions for conservation, rehabilitation/reclamation
    • Monitor success of new land management practices
    • Monitor success of actions from NAPs- Conventions
what for1
What for?
  • Make use of funds in the best possible way
  • Explore the potential for resolving common problems at regional level
  • Stop the trend of assessing forever using different parameters…
some concepts of land degradation in the past
Some concepts of land degradation in the past

FAO 1979:Land degradation is a process which lowers the current and/or potential capability of soils to produce

Houghton and Charman 1986: Aspects of physical, chemical, and/or biological deterioration including loss of organic matter, decline in soil fertility, decline in structural condition, erosion, adverse changes in salinity, acidity or alkalinity, and the effects of toxic chemicals, pollutants or excessive flooding

UNEP 1992: Land degradation implies reduction of resource potential by one or a combination of processes acting on land

some concepts of land degradation in the past1
Some concepts of land degradation in the past
  • Some focused in single compartments (e.g. only soils)
  • Some considered a limited number of processes
  • Do not help to understand the complexity of land degradation, since they consider only biophysical aspects
lada definition 2005
LADA definition, 2005

Definition adopted by the Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) project:

Land degradation isthe reduction in the capacity of the land to perform ecosystem functions and services (including those of agro-ecosystems and urban systems) that support society and development

evolving concepts of land degradation ii

land- ecosystem

functions and services






Evolving concepts of land degradation (II)
land degradation i
Land degradation (I)
  • Includes damage/change to one or more components:
    • Soil
    • Water bodies (surface, groundwater)
    • Vegetation cover
    • Fauna (micro/macrolevel)
land degradation ii
Land degradation (II)

Through different processes (isolated or combined):

  • Physical: crusting, compaction, erosion, waterlogging, depletion of underground water, etc.
  • Chemical: acidification, leaching, salinisation, changes in cation exchange capacity, fertility depletion, pollution, etc.
  • Biological: reduction in total biomass carbon sequestration, changes in biodiversity (micro/macro), eutrophication…
land degradation iii
Land degradation (III)

These processes are driven by different factors:

  • Inappropriate land use/land management
  • Natural disasters
  • Socio-economic: land tenure, market, population growth, institutional support, income, education, human health…
  • Political:incentives, political stability or instability…
aspects to consider
Aspects to consider
  • Land degradation:
    • is complex, includes physical, chemical, biological and socio-economic factors, therefore it needs a multidisciplinary approach
    • impacts on economic growth
    • concerns different stakeholders - from the farmer to the national/regional authorities
    • Recovering degraded land may be expensive/not feasible - early action is desirable
    • Early warning systems are necessary to avoid further losses
esbn working group on land degradation1
ESBN Working Group on Land Degradation

Is it feasible? Yes: ESBN has plenty of internal human resources

Is it needed for Europe? Yes

International Working Group on LD and Desertification of IUSS started as a Task Force in 1996 and converted to WG in World Congress of Soil Science in Montpellier in 1998


The focus remain in developing countries

But Land Degradation is a problem affecting both poor and rich countries including Europe (i.e. UNCCD Annex 4 European countries )

Who should participate? Scientists of different backgrounds

What could be the outputs deliverables? Atlas of Land Degradation for Europe (????) But first we MUST agree on the methodology;

Who needs them? A wide range of stakeholders from policy/decision makers (in Malta many of them do not consider LD a problem) down to the farming community

How to use and disseminate them? All available forms of communication including media, conferences, etc


European Soil Geographical Database 1:1M

Land Degradation Atlas of Europe


Main topics of the 5th ICLDvMultidisciplinary assessment of land degradation and desertification at local, national, regional and global scales;vInteraction between natural ecosystem components (land, water, biodiversity) and socio-economic indicators and their overall impact on land degradation;vImpacts of human mismanagement on natural resources and examples of best management practices in reducing land degradation effects;vPromotion of income-generating activities that alleviate poverty through enhancement of sustainable crop production systems and valorisation of indigenous knowledge in sustainable ecosystem management;vParticipatory management of natural resources as a mean to sustain both productivity and environmental sustainability; vEstablishing of the role and responsibilities of various stakeholders in reducing the negative effects of land degradation and enhancing soil conservation measures;vState and development of policy options, management strategies, and guidelines for sustainable natural resources use and management;vDevelopment of economically sustainable measures that match with environmental quality.

comments suggestions are most welcome
Comments/suggestions are most welcome

Send them to: