Indicators in the study sites Print

Data on 72 land degradation indicators has been collected from 1641 locations across all 17 DESIRE study sites. Details about each of the indicators and data recording sheets are contained in the »Manual for describing land degradation indicators.


This report contains a summary of the data collected and gives an excellent overview of the range of bio-physical, land use and socio-economic conditions that occur across the study sites. The data itself can be found in the »Database of indicators in study sites.


Main conclusions of the report

Soil erosion was identified as the most important land degradation process in the study sites, followed by soil slainization, water stress, forest fires, overgrazing and urbanization.
Climatic conditions are mainly semi-arid with rainfall ranging from 280-650 mm in 72.3% of the study field sites, with high aridity index (BGI>125) in 61.1% of the cases. Rainfall is rather seasonal to markedly seasonal in 79.2% of the sites with very low to low erosivity in 82.4% of the study field sites.
Water resources are mainly of good quality with low to moderate electrical conductivity in 55.9% of the field sites, while 44.1% of the sites have low water quality for irrigation. The water quantity is adequate to moderate in 70.4% of the cases. Ground water exploitation faces no problems in 62% of the sites, and the ratio water consumption/water demands was mainly low to moderate in 67.5% of the study filed sites.
Soils are well to imperfectly drained in 50.9% of the study field sites; formed mainly on sedimentary and unconsolidated parent materials in 83.6% of the cases; free of rock fragments to moderately stony in 84.2% of the sites; relatively deep to very deep in 51.5% of the sites, moderately fine to fine textured in 56.4% of the sites. Slope gradient greater than 12% are found in 57.5% of the cases, and 62.2% have a northerly aspect. Soil water storage capacity is moderate to high in 51.3% of the cases. Rock outcrops are not present or few in 86% of the study field sites. Soil organic matter content in the soil surface is low to very low in 77.1% of the sites. Soils are moderately to severely eroded in 71.9% of the sites. Finally field sites in which soil salinization was the most important process of land degradation had low to moderate electrical conductivity in 73.2% of the study sites.
Vegetation comprises agricultural crops in 51.4% of the sites and pastures in 25% of the cases. Vegetation cover types are: cereals (33.2%), olives (18.2%), vines (18.5%), cotton (10.5%), generating vegetation cover less than 50% in 50.9% of the cases. The rate of deforestation is low in 91.2% of the study field sites.
Water runoff systems are fine to very fine drainage density in 57.2% of the study field sites, while flooding frequency in the lowland is rare to no flooding in 60.3% of the cases. The presence of impervious surfaces covered with inert materials was low to moderate in 73.8% of the study areas.
Forest fires
are mainly of low frequency (ecosystem burned every 50-100 years) in 85.5% of the study field sites, even though the fire risk has been characterized as high to very high in 91.4% of the cases. The rate of burned area in the last decade has been defined as low (<10 ha/10 km²).
Agriculture structure is owner-farmed in 64% of the study field sites with variable farm size ranging form 2 to more than 100 ha. Land has been subjected to high fragmentation with more than 7 parcels in 58.5% of the cases. Farmer income is moderate in 70.6% of the study field sites, while farmers are mainly working in the agriculture sector in 60% of the cases.
Cultivation by plowing occurs in 36.5% of the study field sites while no tillage operations were identified in 35.7% of the cases. The main tillage frequency is twice per year in 33.7% of the field sites. Dominant depths of cultivation are less than 20cm and 20-30 cm in 23. % and 26.6% of the cases, respectively. Tillage direction for the fields cultivated is mainly down slope in 37.6% and parallel to the contour lines in 41.6% of the cases. Mechanization index is low in 63.5% and moderate in 33% of the study field sites.
Husbandry There is no grazing control in 50.9% of the field sites, while sustainable grazing occurs in 43% of the cases. Grazing intensity is low in 56.8%, and high in 36.2% of the study field sites.
Land management for fire protection is low in 62.5% of the study field sites. No sustainable farming occurs in 53.4%, while no-tillage or minimum tillage has been occurs in 33.9% of the cases. No reclamation of affected areas by salts occurs in 95.3% of the field sites. There are no actions for reclamation of miming areas in any site. No soil erosion control measures are taken in 73.1% of the cases; while low to moderate measures are taken in 19.6% of the field sites. No soil water conservation measures are taken in 56.3% of the study field sites, while measures such as weed control, mulching have been found in 43.7% of the cases. There is no terracing in 84. % of the cases.
Land use The rate of land abandonment is low (less than 10 ha/10 years/km²) in 52.8% of the fields sites, while moderate to high rate of land abandonment (10-50 ha/year/10km²) occurs in 45.4%. Land use intensity in agricultural areas is high in 38.5% of the cases, while moderate and low in 29.7% and 31.7% of the field sites, respectively. The period of existing land use is long (more than 25 years) in 70.4% of the study field sites. Urban area and rate of urban area change is low in few of the study sites measured. The field sites studied for soil salinization are located less than 5 km from the seashore in 49.2% of the cases, while the 45% of the fields the distance is greater than 15 km.
Water use for irrigation is less than 5% of the land irrigated in 53% of the fields, while more than 50% of the land irrigated in 25.4% of the sites. Runoff water storage actions are not taken in 64% of the fields. Water consumption based on the limited number of fields is allocated for agriculture in 61.4% and the rest for other uses. Water scarcity is high in 42% of the sites while low to moderate in 48.8% of the cases.
Tourism data were available for few study sites and for these tourism intensity and tourism change is low.
Human characteristics Poverty index is low in 42.9% of the field sites, while moderate in 47.5% of the cases. Old age index is high in 63.9% of the field sites. Population density is low in 66% of the cases (less than 50 people/km²). Population growth rate is low (0.2-0.4% per year) in 72.6% of the sites.
Institutional Subsidies are allocated for production in 64% of the field sites and for environmental protection only in 8% of the cases. Protected areas and particularly protected landscapes are found in 14.9% of the study field sites. Finally, policy enforcement of exiting regulations is low to no enforcement in 72.5% of the study field sites.


More details ... read on-line or download the full report

Description of indicators defined in the various study sites

Description of indicators defined in the various study sites [2.33MB]




fp6 logo 3 50 x 43
The DESIRE project was 
co-funded by the
European Commission,
Global Change and
Contract no: 037046 GOCE

DESIRE brought together the expertise of
26 international research institutes
and non-governmental organisations.

This website does not necessarily
represent the opinion of the
European Commission. The European
Commission is not responsible for
any use that might be made of the
information contained herein.

Citing website content

For the terms under which the content 
of this website may be used see 
»Disclaimer, copyright and privacy

When referenceing page contents
please cite as Brandt, C. J. (ed). 
2012. "page title". DESIRE Project 
Harmonised Information System.
DESIRE Consortium. 

If citing a deliverable use the authors'
names, date and title as given on the 
cover page and add "available at".

Follow us