Combined use of GIS and environmental indicators for assessment of chemical, physical and biological soil degradation in a Spanish Mediterranean region
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Soil is one of the main non-renewable natural resources in the world. In the Valencian Community (Mediterranean coast of Spain), it is especially important because agriculture and forest biomass exploitation are two of the main economic activities in the region. More than 44% of the total area is under agriculture and 52% is forested. The frequently and or semi-arid climate with rainfall concentrated in few events, usually in the autumn and spring, scarcity of vegetation cover, and eroded and shallow soils in several areas lead to soil degradation processes. These processes, mainly water erosion and salinization, can be intense in many locations within the Valencian Community. Evaluation of soil degradation on a regional scale is important because degradation is incompatible with sustainable development. Policy makers involved in land use planning require tools to evaluate soil degradation so they can go on to develop measures aimed at protecting and conserving soils. In this study, a methodology to evaluate physical, chemical and biological soil degradation in a GIS-based approach was developed for the Valencian Community on a 1/200,000 scale. The information used in this study was obtained from two different sources: (i) a soil survey with more than 850 soil profiles sampled within the Valencian Community, and (ii) the environmental information implemented in the Geo-scientific map of the Valencian Community digitised on an Arc/Info GIS. Maps of physical, chemical and biological soil degradation in the Valencian Community on a 1/200,000 scale were obtained using the methodology devised. These maps can be used to make a cost-effective evaluation of soil degradation on it regional scale. Around 29% of the area corresponding to the Valencian Community is affected by high to very high physical soil degradation, 36% by high to very high biological degradation, and 6% by high to very high chemical degradation. It is, therefore, necessary to draw up legislation and to establish the policy framework for actions focused on preventing soil degradation and conserving its productive potential. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.