Table of Contents
ISRN Soil Science
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 182402, 4 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/182402
Research Article

Agricultural Land-Use Changes and Soil Quality: Evaluating Long-Term Trends in a Rural Mediterranean Region

Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Centro per lo Studio delle Relazioni Pianta-Suolo, Via della Navicella 2-4, 00184 Rome, Italy

Received 4 October 2013; Accepted 10 November 2013

Academic Editors: B. J. Allred and A. E. . M. Chirnside

Copyright © 2013 Luca Salvati. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Land-Use Changes (LUCs) are the result of interacting environmental and socioeconomic factors. Although in southern Europe traditional agroforestry systems are an important component of the Mediterranean landscape, intensification and simplification of the rural space coupled with the increasing sensitivity to soil degradation are potentially harmful for the integrity of natural resources and biodiversity stock. The present study introduced a quantitative assessment of rural LUCs that occurred in a region devoted to agriculture and experiencing a progressively higher human impact from both urbanization and land abandonment. The assessment was carried out at the municipality scale along forty years (1970–2010) using data collected every ten years in the framework of the National Census of Agriculture. The Maximum potential Water Capacity (MWC) in the soil, taken as a proxy for agricultural soil quality, and an index of crop intensity have been introduced in the analysis as supplementary variables. A Multiway Factor Analysis (MFA) was developed to evaluate stability or dynamics in the investigated land-use classes. Results illustrate relevant changes in the rural landscape by identifying the classes “moving” towards better soils. An integrated evaluation of rural LUCs and soil resources based on long-time inventories available at an adequate spatial scale is a tool informing policies against soil degradation.