A Diachronic Classification of Peri-urban Forest Land Based on Vulnerability to Desertification

Document Type : Original Research Paper


Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Centre for the Study of Soil-Plant Interactions (CRA-RPS), Via della Navicella 2-4, I-00184 Rome, Italy


Land vulnerable to desertification increased in the Mediterranean basin since World War II due
to several interacting factors including climate variations, land-use changes and growing human pressure. It
was hypothesized that the increase in the level of land vulnerability is not distributed homogeneously over
time and space while impacting preferentially landscapes surrounding large urban agglomerations. This
hypothesis was tested diachronically (1960-2010) in the peri-urban area of Rome (Central Italy) to clarify
how different factors causing land vulnerability to desertification impact a fragile landscape close to the city
with one of the largest coastal forest in Italy. Four partial indicators (climate quality, soil quality, vegetation
quality, land management quality) developed within the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) framework and
measuring the level of land vulnerability have been calculated at a detailed spatial scale. The highest growth rate in land vulnerability has been observed in cropland while coastal woodlands showed a relatively high and
stable land quality over time. Conservation strategies of relict forest ecosystems considered as ‘buffer zones’ contrasting land degradation processes are particularly important in Mediterranean peri-urban regions.