Land degradation is a severe environmental problem at regional and global scales that can be aggravated by land uses and climate change. It encompasses a decline or lost of the productive capacity of soils as a result of soil erosion, depletion of soil fertility, soil pollution or loss of vegetation cover. Several activities or processes can lead to land degradation such as land abandonment, mining activities or deforestation and in many cases, the consequences can be irreversible. The restoration of these degraded environments requires appropriate methods and techniques for soil and vegetation monitoring and assessment and to provide sustainable solutions for a successful ecosystem recovery. In this course we aim to present novel techniques and current restoration strategies to restore these degraded environments including, but not limited to, the use of organic amendments and reconstructed soils. Ecosystem recovery indicators and methods for evaluation of soil hydrological, physical, chemical or microbiological responses will be also presented. With this course we intend to effectively contribute to inform better management of degraded ecosystems of arid, semi-arid and Mediterranean areas in a rapidly changing world.
Dr. Cristina Branquinho
cE3c, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Monitoring the effectiveness of ecological restoration: towards climate-change adaptation in drylands
Restoration efforts in the Mediterranean Basin have been changing from a silvicultural to an ecological restoration approach. We evaluated to which extent are they strictly following ecological restoration principles. The practice revealed high variability among projects’ and identified the need for more scientific assistance and information sharing, greater use of native species of local provenance, and more long-term monitoring and evaluation, including functional and ecosystem services indicators, to improve the practice of ecological restoration projects. On a second part we will focus on native forest since it represents a strategy at the ecosystem level to adapt to climate change and it provides a series of ecosystem services, including decreases susceptibility to desertification. For that reason, large areas have been reforested with the native species holm oak and cork oak but with a low rate of effectiveness. It will be discussed how the cost-benefit relation of the actions intended to expand the forest in semiarid can be lowered by taking into account the microclimatic conditions and high spatial resolution management.
Dr Thomas Baumgartl
Sustainable Minerals Institute; Environment Centres; The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Degradation and restoration of land in mining
Many examples in the mining industry show that newly constructed landforms and landscapes may not be stable and bear a high risk of failure which may lead to land degradation. Restoration of degraded land is usually resource and time consuming with a high prospect of uncertainty of the long-term success and sustainability of the restored land. Understanding the cause and origin of the process leading to degradation is therefore prerequisite to achieve a positive outcome of the restoration undertaking.
A holistic approach to define, assess and verify the relevant process components responsible for the functioning or failure of land stability is critical to prevent or rectify degradation and to restore degraded land. The presentation will discuss common examples of degradation in the mining context like erosion (tunnel erosion), risk of salinisation, failure of revegetation. Approaches on how to assess and address the cause of degradation and solutions to achieve successful restoration will be presented and discussed.
Dr Paloma Hueso González
Physical Geography; University of Málaga, Spain
Organic amendments as restoration techniques in drylands
In the millennia old man-made landscape of the dryland belt, overgrazing, forest fires and agriculture produced the depletion of the soil organic carbon, and then a change in the soil properties and a decrease in the soil quality. Owing to all these human activity, in some occasions, soil amendments are necessary to recover the soil properties and improve the soil quality.
The use of organic amendments improve other physical properties such as soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity and reduces the soil loss under semiarid conditions. This contributes to more water available for plant growth and then a more sustainable land management.
The aim of this lecture will be to make known the benefit and risk of the use of different organic amendments as restoration techniques in degraded areas.
Dr. Estela Nadal Romero. Department of Geography and Spatial Planning. Environmental Sciences Institute. University of Zaragoza (Spain).
MEDAFFOREST PROJECT: Afforestation management in Mediterranean mountain areas: Evaluating the environmental consequences
Human-induced afforestation has been one of the main policies for environmental management of forest landscapes in Mediterranean areas. Over the last decades, several studies have reviewed the impact of forests on soil properties, SOC dynamics and their geomorphological and hydrological response, although few of them have intensively studied the most relevant pedological and hydromorphological consequences of afforestation, particularly in the Mediterranean mountain areas. However, during the last century, extensive afforestation was conducted by national forest services all over the Mediterranean Region, causing a sudden change in land cover. Consequently, afforestation practices may have had significant effects on a variety of environmental aspects such as landscape structure, soil properties and water and sediment yield.
To address this problem, an interdisciplinary approach is proposed for understanding the global effect of afforestation on landscape structure, soil properties and carbon sequestration, and hydrological and geomorphological dynamics. This objective includes a comparison with the consequences of naturally revegetated areas (shrubs and forests) using different experimental areas in Mediterranean mountain areas. The project deals with the urgent need to implement recommendations on afforestation management, proposing a new guideline for optimized afforestation scenarios in relation to water resources and carbon sequestration, including practices for local afforestation in relation to management and strategies for regional afforestation polices.