Long-term impact of rainfed agricultural land abandonment on soil erosion in the Western Mediterranean basin

Agata Novara, Ali Reza Vaezi, Antonio Giménez-Morera, Eric Charles Brevik, Jesús Rodrigo-Comino, Manuel Pulido, Artemi Cerdà, Saskia Deborah Keesstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Land abandonment is widespread in the Mediterranean mountains. The impact of agricultural abandonment results in a shift in ecosystem evolution due to changes in soil erosion, but little is known about long-term soil and water losses. This paper uses 11 years of measurements in two paired plots (abandoned vs control) with four subplots to determine how soil and water losses evolved after abandonment within an agricultural parcel. For two years (2004–2005) both plots were under tillage, and after 2006 one plot was abandoned. The monitored plots measured runoff and sediment concentration after each rainfall event. The results show that during the two years after abandonment there was an increase in sediment yield followed by a decrease. Once the field was abandoned, a sudden increase in runoff (× 2.1 times) and sediment concentration (× 1.2 times) was found due to the lack of vegetation and tillage. After one year, the sediment concentration and, after two years, the runoff rates were lower in the abandoned than in the tilled plots. This short transition period ended in contrasting responses between the control and abandoned plot as the impact of abandonment resulted in 21 times less sediment yield after nine years of abandonment. This occurred despite the fact that the year after the abandonment the abandoned plot had 2.9 times more erosion due to low vegetation recovery and the development of a soil crust. Agriculture land abandonment resulted in lower erosion rates over the long term, but showed an increase in soil and water losses over the short term (two years). Therefore, in the first two years after abandonment there is a particular need to apply nature-based soil and water conservation strategies to prevent soil erosion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-219
Number of pages18
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Volume42
Publication statusPublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

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