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Actions taken by national governmental and non-governmental organisations to mitigate desertification in the Mediterranean


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Actions taken by
national governmental and
non-governmental organisations
to mitigate desertification
in the Mediterranean
Contract No ENVA-CT95-0183
Concerted Action Report 1
Edith CRESSON, Member of the Commission responsible
for research, innovation, education, training and youth
DG XII/D.2 — RTD actions: Environment — Climatology and natural hazards
Contact: Mr Denis Peter
Address: European Commission, rue de la Loi 200 (SDME 7/33)
B-1049 Brussels — Tel. (32-2) 29-58446; fax (32-2) 29-63024
e-mail: denis.peter@dg12.cec.be European Commission Concerted Action
Desertification πτιττιττιτη
and climate programme
Actions taken by national governmental and
non-governmental organisations to mitigate
desertification in the Mediterranean
Concerted Action Report 1
Contract No: ENV4-CT95-0183
Edited by
Sophia Burke and John B. Thornes
Department of Geography, King's College London,
The Strand, London WC2R 2LS, United Kingdom
Science, Research and Development
1998 EUR 18490 EN A great deal of additional information on the European Union is available on the Internet.
It can be accessed through the Europa server (http://europa.eu.int).
Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication.
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1998
ISBN 92-827-9477-6
© European Communities, 1998
Reproduction is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged.
Printed in Belgium
Foreword. Denis Peter, Panagiotis Balabanis V
Introduction. John Thornes, Sophia Burke VII
National governmental agencies Stéphane Gaffìé 1
Non-governmental organisations 23
National governmental agencies C. Kosinas, N Danalatos, C. Kassioumis, and
St. Gerontidis 41
Non-governmental organisations Constantine Tsolakidis 6
National governmental agencies Andrea Freschi 77
Non-governmental organisations Paolo di Martino 9
National governmental agencies Paul Newell Price 111
Non-govemmental organisations Paul 155
National governmental agencies Jorge M Mourão 20
Non-governmental organisations M Mourão
National governmental agencies Leopoldo Rojo Serrano 211
Non-governmental organisations Susana Bautista Aguilar 243
National governmental agencies AND 275
Non-governmental organisations Noureddine Akriini 302
Annex 1A: Concerted Action - List of participants 343
Annex IB: Universities and Research Institutions involved in
EC funded. Desertification research projects (1994 - 1998) - Environment and
Climate Research Programme. 344 FOREWORD
The International Convention to Combat Desertification has entered into force.
It represents a new, important step to address the issue of land degradation and
desertification around the world as well as in the southern European regions.
Experience and know-how on the processes and interactions involved have been
gathered by many scientists and land managers at national and European level for
several years.
It was therefore felt to be important and timely to bring together this experience in the
form of an inventory on "who is doing what and where?"
This first edition, produced in the frame of the Concerted Action on Mediterranean
Desertification funded by the European Commission, Directorate General XII,
Environment and Climate programme, is a starting point which is intended to be
regularly up-dated as this topic may rapidly evolve with the activities stimulated by
the Convention itself.
We would therefore welcome any new input which might help us to update this
information source which should contribute to the awareness and increase the
collaboration between all the actors concerned with these land
degradation/desertification issues.
Thanks to all the contributors who carefully collected the information at the country
level in collaboration with the Concerted Action Board, and to Sophia Burke for the
follow-up and editing of this document.
Our thanks are also due to Prof. John Thornes, co-ordinator of this project, for his
continuous support and implication in this field of research .
Denis PETER Panagiotis BALABANIS
Scientific Officer Scientific Officer
EC Environment and Climate Programm EC Environment and Climate Programm INTRODUCTION
Mediterranean desertification: The Issues
Desertification is taken to mean, following the United Nations Convention to Combat n in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification,
Particularly in Africa (CCD):
"land degradation in arid, semi-arid and diy sub-humid areas resulting from various
factors, including climatic variations and human activities; where "land" means the
terrestrial bio-productive system that comprises soil, vegetation, other biota, and
ecological and hydrologicai processes that operate within the system "
It is separate from but may be related to desertion (the abandonment of areas by
people) and desertization (the creation of deserts). A great deal of confusion or
deliberate obfuscation about desertification reflects poorly defined or incorrect use of
tenns, the failure to identify the various combinations of processes at different time
and space scales and ignorance or lack of data, and this confusion may even be
politically, economically, socially and scientifically motivated. Nevertheless
desertification is an important cause of loss of human well-being to individuals,
communities and nations.
The Natural Mediterranean
The Mediterranean region has a basin and range topography surrounding the
Mediterranean Sea, as a consequence of which it has highly variable geographical
conditions. These are induced by the climate, topography and land use. Thus although
the statement that Mediterranean climates comprise hot dry summers and warm wet
winters is generally true, the reality is much more complex than that as a result of both
the topography and the regional mesoscale disturbance patterns, which give rise to the
real local climates. Within the boundary set by the northern limit of the date palm and
the northern limit of the olive, generally taken to delimit Mediterranean climates, there
are pockets of climatically marginal regions that have less than 400mm per year of
rainfall. These areas have been characterised for the whole of the Holocene by strong
medium tenn, inter-annual and seasonal variations in rainfall (and to a lesser degree
temperature). From year to year the rainfall may vary by twice the annual average and
persistent trends lasting 40-60 years may result in a halving or doubling of the decadal
average. These fluctuations help to define the dry Mediterranean environment. As a
consequence drought, though unpredictable in its temporal occurrence, is nevertheless
a part of the naturally occurring climatic system.
As a result of these marginal climatic conditions, the Mediterranean also, has a
distinctive hydrology. Rainfall occurs dominantly between late-September and early-
May as a results of both cyclonic and convective weather conditions, some areas
having a single rainfall peak, other areas with two, one at the beginning and the other
at the end of the season. Under these conditions soil moisture is comparable to that in
temperate environments from November to the end of April, after which it falls steeply
VII to the very low values of summer. The natural vegetation is thought to have responded
distinctly to these circumstances by selective physiological adaptation to both normal
rainfall and to intermittent drought and has a resilience to the prevailing moisture
conditions. Moreover the vegetation productivity under natural conditions should
closely mirror soil moisture availability. A map of natural vegetation cover, biomass
and density would look very similar to a map of rainfall, though other factors, such as
aspect and soil conditions also control the distribution. The response of rivers under
natural conditions also reflected the rainfall, plant cover and soil conditions. In
particular rivers in the drier areas of the Meditenanean are dominated by lack of flow
throughout much of the year, and are charged by heavy flows immediately following
rainfall. There is abundant evidence that throughout prehistory the Mediterranean
rivers were subject to intense short lived floods. The fact that these have significantly
changed the landscape is not in doubt and it is evident that extensive erosion was
prevalent under Mediterranean conditions before human populations reached
environmentally significant numbers. Land degradation, as understood by the CCD,
was already present in the region by 4000 years before the present.
The peopled Mediterranean
In fact then basin was extensively settled by 4000 B.P. and the
subsequent population rise was followed by sharp fluctuations as drought, famine,
pestilence and war came and went throughout the centuries. All Mediterranean
countries had their environments transformed by these changes. Forests were felled
and regrown, in some places many times; new plants such as the orange and esparto
were introduced; and agricultural innovation led eventually to a firmly established
agricultural system of wheat, olives and grazing. As a result it makes little sense to
think of the Meditenanean in any way as natural. From the Bronze Age onwards the
vegetation cover was continuously formed and reformed. From Roman times onwards
the onset of the hydraulic civilisations meant that water was managed by irrigation
systems of considerable complexity and life and dry agriculture was transformed
through a fallowing system and the development of tillage methods that became more
efficient in transforming the soil and its environment as time went on. Mineral wealth,
primary agricultural production and even urban development had an early start and
these in turn had significant impact on the environment. By the nineteenth century
water reservoir construction had already become standard practise and larger and
larger projects began to consume land and water. By the beginning of the 20th Century,
extensive desertification as defined above, had already occurred over the diy lands of
Mediterranean Europe, the Near East and the Maghrebian countries of the
Mediterranean rim. Desertification is not a myth!
A time of great change
Since the 1950s there have been major changes to the economies, the landscape and
the livelihood of the European Meditenanean countries and these are being followed
by the Maghrebian countries at the present time. First there were extensive rural out-
migrations. Although these are recorded throughout history, they were particularly
notable in the 1950s and 1960s. Second, agricultural intensification resulted from the
introduction of new farm machinery, new strains of cereals and tree crops, and