Land management research activities

Soil use, management and monitoring

Concerning the status of agricultural land in the Mediterranean Region, only 13 percent of the Mediterranean land is considered to be suitable for agricultural use (FAO, 2000) and around 5 percent of the land resources included in North African and Middle Eastern countries are arable lands; the rest is made of pastures, wetlands, forests, shrubs, urban zones, badlands, rocky areas, and deserts. Due to increased population pressure and continued pace of land degradation, it is expected that the available arable land per capita in the whole Mediterranean would decrease from 0.48 ha per person as it was in 1961 to 0.22 haper capita in the year 2020 (Zdruli, et al, 2007). However, that ratio is around 0.20 already in North Africa and the Middle East. Sustainable land management and land use planning have yet to become a common practice in the region. Endorsing international agreements, such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) or the Biodiversity Convention, is an important prerequisite for the future.

More recently, a research on “soil organic carbon stocks (SOCS) and the potentials for carbon sequestration in the soils” has been started at the L&W Division, as it is a priority issue in the Mediterranean region, especially in the context of climate change. The L&W Division is working towards developing a methodology for estimating soil carbon stocks in the Apulia region as a representative case study to be extended then to the whole Mediterranean. Located in the south-eastern part of Italy, the Apuliaregion is the nation’s largest table grape producer and exporter and one of the most important agricultural regions for the production of cereals, vegetables and olive oil. Arable lands occupy about 81 percent of the territory and store the largest stocks of soil organic carbon, while forests, pastures, and nature conservation areas like NATURA 2000 sites, water bodies, and rock outcrops cover the rest. Urban areas along with rural urban zones and related infrastructures cover less than 10 percent of the whole territory (Regione Puglia, 2008).

Starting: 8.01.2000
Scheduled ending: 31.12.2009
Real ending: 23.09.2019

The main objective is to collect and update existing soil information at various levels (local and regional) and mapping scales to: i) support integrated research of the L&W Division., ii) coordinate soil research activities in the Mediterranean, iii) implement research studies in areas of particular interest for the Mediterranean conditions, and, iv) disseminate information on Mediterranean soils, v) estimate the SOC stocks at three soil depths and up to one meter, and correlate them with soil textural class, climate conditions, and the physiographic areas to identify related differences or relationships and explore the potential for carbon sequestration.


To contribute to the “State of Landand Water” (FAO-SOLAW) providing data and information for the various countries of the Mediterranean Region. The negative ratio between population growth and availability of arable land is of great concern for the Mediterranean countries. Predicted climate change scenarios suggest that extensive areas could be lost due to sea level rise, like in the case of Egypt. In addition, the following research activities will be conducted to:

  • Identify the most suitable crops for various administrative units with limited and/or non-limited input of resources (water and nutrients);

  • Identify the areas that satisfy a defined set of requirements about climate variables;

  • Identify the areas that match crop requirements and soil characteristics;

  • Provide a framework for large-scale estimates of SOC stocks under similar Mediterranean conditions;

  • Establish the relationships between soil organic matter and crop productivity, environmental quality and climate change.


The diversity of Mediterranean soils requires intense soil surveys at larger scales. While appreciating the development of remote sensing technologies in support of digital soil mapping, it is strongly suggested to continue field soil surveys and to consider the biodiversity component as an essential part of all the studies dealing with soil degradation and  an important indicator of the soil quality and its trend. Research on SOC stock has great potentials and is now included as priority area by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In fact, in 2010 a new project called "Monitoring Carbon Stocks of Northern Mediterranean Drylands" will be launched for the countries included in the UNCCD Annex 4 (Northern Mediterranean, including Puglia region) and the MAIB L&W Division is invited to participate.

Results: survey
  • Strengths

The activities carried out within the framework of the ACLA2 and SIS Albaniaprojects have created the conditions for the continuation of the above research lines in the various parts of the Mediterranean region. The most strategic objective for the Division remains the completion of the Euro-Mediterranean Geographical Soil Database at the scale of 1:1 million, the preparation of a Soil Atlas of the Mediterranean, and the establishment of the Mediterranean Soil Museum.

  • Weaknesses

The weakness is mainly related to the complexity in field data collection that requires a lot of work and funds.

Reference person/s: Zdruli Pandi /
Collaborators: De santis Saverio / Nerilli Enrico / Todorovic Mladen /
Thesis: Investigating the risk of nitrate pollution in the soil/groundwater system of the central Bekaa valley in Lebanon
Nitrate accumulation in the soil/groundwater system as affected by land use and agricultural practices in Central Bekaa Valley
The impact of pesticides use on newly reclaimed soils
Institutions involved: Cranfield University (CRANFIELD)
Università degli Studi di Bari
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