Overview of study sites in forests & shrubland

Authors: Agostino Ferrara, Guiseppe Mancino, Luca Salvati, Michiel Curfs, Anton Imeson

Editor's note 14Jun2012: Text extracted from D711 section 9.4

The two forests & shrubland study sites are located in Baixo Guadiana (Spain-Portugal) and Matera (Southern Italy) (Figure 1). The study site of Baixo-Guadiana lies in the lower Guadiana Basin, in the southwestern part of the Iberian peninsula. It covers the southernmost part of the border between Spain and Portugal. The Mediterranean coastal and upland study site in Matera prefecture is situated in the south-east part of the Basilicata Region in Italy and it includes 31 municipalities.

Locations of the LEDDRA forest & shrubland study sites

Both study sites represent and summarize most of the characteristic aspects of forested Mediterranean areas with a high severity of climatic, environmental and socioeconomic conditions. In general, the two areas have many characteristics in common but also some differences in the biophysical and the human system. Table 1 summarises the most important environmental and socio-economic characteristics of the two study sites.

Table 1. Environmental and socio-economic characteristics of the two study sites

(Baixo Guadiana)
Surface 261,200 ha 343,362 ha
Topography The elevation level within the Baixo-Guadiana ranges not higher than 400 m a.s.l. Altitudinal range: 0-1304 m a.s.l.
The larger part of the area (93%) falls in the range from 0 to 600 m a.s.l.
Climate Typically Mediterranean climate with long, dry periods and high temperatures during summer, associated with a trend of decreasing average annual rainfall that falls in more irregular showers.
Average precipitation: 500 mm/year  (extremes from more than a 1000mm/year to less than 200mm/year)
Mean T: 18ºC
Mediterranean and Mediterranean-mountainous climate (hot and dry summers; rainy, cold winters)
Average precipitation: 600 mm/year
Mean T: 14 °C
Geology Mostly carboniferous material that mainly is of volcanic origin: Tuff, lavas, acid breccias and quartz. (Northern part)
Secondly, shale, slates and greywacke, that depict a fluvial origin. (Middle Part)
We found also (near the coast) formation that derives from the Quaternary: conglomerates, gravel and red clay  (Southern Part)
Mainly Alluvial deposits (near the coast) of Quaternary (28.6%) and Clay formations (33.9%).
We found also Conglomerate formations and Cemented sandstones. Scarse in the Siliceous formations
Soils The main soils in the area are, Leptosol, (Eutric) Regosol and (Eutric) Cambisol. The soils in general are shallow, low in nutrients and organic matter. Mainly Soils of clay hills and, near the coast, Soils of alluvional plans and coastal plans. In the inland areas are Soils of the sandy and conglomerate hills.
Land cover Shrubs and herbaceous formations are the main land cover (42%)

Dehesas and Montados with its holm oak (Quercus ilex) and cork oak (Quercus suber) constitute a forest which has the largest extension
Arable land is the main land use type (47%). Forests cover 17% of the surface while 15.7% are Heterogeneous agricultural areas.
Permanent crops (orchards) near the coast; olive groves in the hinterland.
Oak forests (with Q. cerris and Q. pubescens) (34%). Mediterranean formations: Macchia (27.8 %), Garrigue (6.9%) and Sclerophyllous vegetation (with Quercus ilex) (4%). Hygrophilous vegetation along the riverbeds (6%). Reforestation with Mediterranean pines (16.7%)
Human system Approximately 58915 inhabitants (2011).
Baixo-Guadiana is a rural area with low population density (less than 5 inh./km²) in the interior and higher population density in the coastal zone (up to 125 inh/km².)
During the 1960-70 there has been a strong rural exodus: this is the cause of a negative demographic trend with consequences on the age structure of the population, causing a gradual shift of individuals from young people to elderly.
The positive demographic trend in the coastal zone is related to the fact that the coastal municipalities are the most socio-economically vital areas, with tourism being the most important activity.
The Baixo-Guadiana area is one of the least developed areas on the Iberian Peninsula. The unemployment rate is high and income is relatively low, making it an economically poor area.
The economic structure shows that the most important sector is the third sector, recently predominantly tourism.
The educational level of the population is rather low; around 80% of the population in the interior villages having received only primary education.
Resident population in the Matera Prefecture 203,726 (1/1/2011). Low population density, highest in the municipalities near the coast.
The age structure in the Matera Prefecture is characterized by the predominance of elderly.
The Prefecture of Matera is characterized by strong internal migration that is not offset by international migration.
The sectoral analysis of value added highlights the particular importance assumed by the trade and services sector. Decrease in the other sectors.
In recent years (2006-2010) the number of employees has increased from around 68.000 to about 73.000, corresponding to an increase close to 1 percent.
Decline of the agriculture sector over four decades, from 37 per cent in 1971 the employed decrease to 14 per cent in 2001.
Unemployment rate stood at 12,6 per cent, distant from the national average of 7,8 per cent (the rate of youth unemployment stands at 43,4 per cent)
Educational level: in the 1980s, 80 per cent of the resident population of Matera Prefecture did not achieve the upper-secondary education level; only from 2001 on, 43 per cent of the people could achieve the upper-secondary school certificate, of which only 9 per cent attained the university degree.

With regard to the LEDD problems and responses to LEDD, the two study sites have many similarities with some site-specific differentiations. Both areas present the characteristic forest conditions and LEDD problems: forest productivity decline, loss of biodiversity, forest fragmentation, water stress, and phytosanitary deterioration of forest cover. For the Baixo Guadiana a special note must be made to the phystosanitary threat, which is called La Seca, which is commonly perceived as the main threat to the disappearance of the Holm Oak. These problems are both related to environmental factors (such as the increase in drought periods) and management factors (such as the lack of forest management plans). The proper management tools to mitigate the LEDD problems mentioned are the Forest Management Plans, Forestation Plan and Triennial Fire Protection Plan in Basilicata and the afforestation and land-use planning plans in Baixo Guadiana. In the Spanish study site, a significant increase in the forest area can be registered since the 1990´s which was due to large-scale afforestation plans. Table 2 summarises the LEDD problem and the responses to LEDD in the two study sites.

Table 2. LEDD problems and responses to LEDD of the two study sites

LEDD Problems Responses to LEDD
(Baixo Guadiana)
(Baixo Guadiana)
Forest productivity decline. Forest productivity decline. New directions and guidelines for decision making in sustainable forest management (Adecuacion del Plan Forestal Andaluz, HORIZONTE 2015,  Afforestation Forestry law to protect forest biomass Land use plans). Sustainable management of resources in forest areas (Forest Management Plan).
Loss of biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity. Environmental restoration and ecological rehabilitation. Protection and conservation measures in the protected areas.
Forest fragmentation. Ecosystem fragmentation. Afforestation.
Environmental restoration and ecological rehabilitation.
Forestry law to protect forest biomass.
Triennial Forestation Plan.
Fire Protection Plan.
Soil erosion and deterioration, soil sealing. Soil erosion and deterioration. Afforestation.
Environmental restοration and ecological recuperation Rural de Andalucia 2007-2013 (PDR) (development of rural Andalucia), measure 216, the establishment of vegetation and island forests.
Follow-up Measures , specifically EU Regulation 2080/92 Regional planning of the territory, the PROT on desertification which is linked up with the National Action Plan of Portugal (PANCD).
Sustainable management and improvement of regional forest areas.
Slopes protection with naturalistic engineering..
Supporting of sustainable agriculture.
Optimal hydrological resources management.
Water stress and phytosanitary deterioration of forest cover. Water stress and phytosanitary deterioration of forest cover. Afforestation.
Irrigation Plan.
Triennial Plan of Forestation of Basilicata Region and Forest management Plans finalized to improve forest functionality.
Desertification.  Desertification. Irrigation Plan regulation (CE) nº 1290/2005.
Land use planning plans.
Regional program to combat drought and desertification.
Partnership in most national and international Research Projects.
Socio-economics.   Lider and Lidera projects.  


2014-11-28 10:49:23