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Climate Change Drought Mitigation and Desertification Prevention in the Mediterranean Environment

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  028050,  2002 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.9246) @2002
Authors:   D. DeWrachien, R. Ragab, A.Giordano
Keywords:   climate changes, drought, land degradation and desertification, EU programs

In the European Mediterranean environment the risk of land degradation and desertification is already felt under the present climatic regime and human activities. As a matter of fact, until the early seventies this risk was considered of minor importance for most of the countries of the region. It was pointed out that the traditional agricultural systems were well capable of keeping those processes in check.

In the eighties and early nineties the impact of agricultural systems introduced in the cultivated sloping areas of the region in the previous decades was presented as a serious factor causing land degradation. In addition, a new threat had appeared, in the shape of global warming generated by enhanced greenhouse effect. Climatic variation and drought are intrinsic characteristics of arid and semiarid environments, and the Mediterranean Basin is no exception.

By examining present pattern and possible future trends of climate over the region, it has been possible to investigate the relationship between the global warming and the drought phenomenon and assess the changing risk of the land degradation and desertification processes. To this end, the UK Hadley Centres Global Climate Model was run on monthly basis for the Mediterranean countries to predict the percent change in rainfall and temperatures with respect to monthly values for the time horizon 2050. The model comprises several layers into the atmosphere and below both the soil and sea surfaces and accounts for most of the essential/dominant hydrological processes. The model runs at spatial scale of 2.5 x 3.75 grid squares for rainfall precipitations and 0.5 x 0.5 grid squares for temperature and accounts only for CO2 impact. Results show that for the dry season (April to September), by the year 2050 rainfall is likely to decrease over much of the Mediterranean countries, particularly in the southern parts, where it could decrease by up to 25%. This trend in rainfall is accompanied by temperature rise between 1.5 to 2.75 C in the northern part and between 1.75 and 3.0C in the southern part of the Mediterranean.

The above-outlined changing climate patterns are expected to lead to environmental conditions even more conducive to land degradation and desertification over the region.

To combat these problems, the European Community (EC), in collaboration with other international organizations, funded different programs and projects for mitigating droughts and assessing and preventing land degradation and desertification.

With reference to afore-stated issues, the paper describes the main features and characteristics of some of these programs and projects ESD (European Soil Database), CORINE (COoRdination INformation Environment), MEDALUS (MEditerranean Desertification And Land USe), UNEP (United Nation Environmental Program), EFEDA (European Field Experiment in Desertification threatened Areas) and proposes new approaches for environmental policies in order to:

  • assess, forecast and mitigate adverse impacts of droughts;
  • better understand soil erosion, land degradation and desertification processes;
  • identify preventive, protective and curative measures;
  • address quantity and quality of natural resources in an integrated context;
  • support innovation and participatory strategies.
The importance and role of institutional strengthening, sound financial and managerial frameworks, availability of human resources involved, research thrust, technology transfer and networking improvement are also highlighted.

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