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SOIL EROSION in the Mediterranean basin

Mediterranean landscape is the result of long and intense interactions between human activities and natural environment. The soil is the essential component interfacing these relationships, and consequently has become deeply affected. Soil erosion is severe in the Mediterranean basin, and particularly intense in long sectors of its coastal areas. The extent of the phenomena is difficult to assess, nevertheless this point has been subject of attention, mainly at the national level.

The PAP activity in the field of soil protection against erosion started in 1984. Following a series of working meetings, technical reports and studies, missions organised to almost all of the Mediterranean countries to get an insight into the situation, and consultations with experts dealing with various forms of soil degradation, PAP/RAC proposed to the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention the implementation of a Co-operative project on mapping and measurement of rainfall-induced soil erosion processes, a phenomenon that affects all of the Mediterranean countries.

The project was formulated in collaboration with the Land and Water Development Division of the FAO, whose officers have been providing their professional and scientific support to the PAP action ever since its launching. Approved by the Contracting Parties, the project started in 1991 with Spain as host country and General Directorate for the Conservation of the Nature (DGCONA – formerly ICONA) from Madrid as host institution. It was divided in two separate components: mapping and measurement.


The planning methodology

Within the mapping component, carried out in the period 1991-92, a new consolidated methodology of mapping was developed and tested in selected watersheds of Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. In 1993, the measurement component started with pilot measurements in the same three countries, which enabled PAP/RAC to prepare instructions for setting up measuring stations and organising practical measurement activities. On the basis of those two exercises “Guidelines for mapping and measurement of rainfall-induced erosion processes in the Mediterranean coastal areas” were prepared and published in 1997.

From 1998, period after the publication of the Guidelines, PAP/RAC has continued its activities and submitted to the European Commission a proposal of another project dealing with the management of erosion and desertification control in the Mediterranean region. The European Commission accepted to support financially the project which was implemented in the period July 1999 - December 2000. The following has been done within the project:


    * six countries selected to represent various parts of the Mediterranean basin (Italy, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey) submitted their national reports on the problems and practices of erosion control management, which were merged and published by PAP/RAC as a single document;
    * a synthesis of those national reports was prepared by a PAP/RAC consultant;
    * draft Guidelines for Erosion/Desertification Control Management in Mediterranean Coastal Areas were prepared by a team of consultants; and
    * two sub-regional workshops were organised: one for English speaking participants in Malta, on 22-24 June 2000, and the other for French speaking participants in Tunis, on 5-7 October 2000.


Earth mounds to retain rainfall water and to prevent the erosive runoff (Sfax, Tunisia)


Sand dunes stabilisation (Zagora, Morocco)




PAP/RAC. 2005. Report of the Regional Workshop to Present PAP/RAC - FAO Experiences in Combating Land Degradation in Mediterranean Coastal Areas (Rome, October 10 - 12, 2005). Split: PAP/RAC. pp 28.

(Download Rome Workshop Report-English.pdf / 137 KB)


Aboulabbes O., Merzouk, A. et Benchekroun, F. 2005. Application des Directives CAR/PAP pour la formulation d’un programme de gestion de contrôle de l’érosion et de la désertification - Cas du bassin versant de Beni Boufrah. Split: CAR/PAP. pp iii + 55

(Download Cas du bassin versant de Beni Boufrah.pdf / 1.7 MB)


Rafla A., Sadok A. et Hédi, H. 2005. Application des Directives CAR/PAP pour la formulation d’un programme de gestion de contrôle de l’érosion et de la désertification - Cas du bassin versant de l’Oued Rmel. Split: CAR/PAP. pp iii + 72

(Download Cas du bassin versant de l’Oued Rmel.pdf / 1.29 MB)


Bouzenoune, A., Mahrour, M. et Zellouf, K. 2005. Application des Directives CAR/PAP pour la formulation d’un programme de gestion de contrôle de l’érosion et de la désertification - Cas de la basse vallée de l'Isser. Split: CAR/PAP. pp vii + 50

(Download Cas de la basse vallée de l'Isser.pdf / 554kB)


GRIESBACH, J.C. 2002. Photo-Library on Soil Erosion Processes; Pictorial annex to the Guidelines for mapping of erosion processes. Split: PAP/RAC. pp. xi + 157

(Open page)

The proposed bilingual (English/French) Photo-library is meant as a complementary and technically annotated photography annex to the “Guidelines for mapping and measurement of rainfall-induced erosion processes in the Mediterranean coastal areas”, as introduced above. It is applicable not only for rainfall-induced erosion processes as initially stated, but considers also wind erosion and other degradation processes induced by incorrect land use practices and management; similarly, the flexibility, adaptability and versatility of the mapping criteria and methods might be likely to be applied in other regions of the world. Therefore, it seemed convenient not to limit the illustrating samples contained in the Photo-library exclusively and strictly to Mediterranean coastal areas but to extend them to a broader variety of eco-geographical environments. The Photo-library is a specific response to reiterated suggestions and recommendations of numerous professionals participants in several presentation and training workshops held in Spain, Malta and North African countries. It contains more than 150 color pictures of soil erosion types with short description and will be of great help to soil erosion practitioners around the world.


PAP/RAC, Split, 2002. RAPPORT de l'Atelier sur le contrôle de l'érosion et de la désertification dans les pays de l'Ouest méditerranéen (Rabat, 24-26 septembre 2001).

(Download Soil-Maghreb-rapport1.doc / 100kb)


GIORDANO, A., TANTI, C., LAOUINA, A., CASTILLO SANCHEZ, V.M., MHIRI, A., and DOGAN, O. 2000. National reports on problems and practices of erosion control management in the Mediterranean region/Rapports nationaux sur les problèmes et les pratiques de lutte anti-érosive en région méditerranéenne. Split: PAP/RAC. pp vi + 161. ENG/FRA

This document was prepared by the PAP/RAC, within the priority action entitled "Protection of soil as one of essential components of the protection of the Mediterranean environment". The present document contains the national reports of six countries (Italy, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey), providing an overview of relevant problems and practices in the region. The basic objectives of the document are: (1) to present a comprehensive and transparent overview of relevant problems and practices; (2) to be used as one of the inputs for the preparation of the Guidelines for Management of Erosion/Desertification Control in the Region, to be finalised and presented during the year 2000; (3) to be used as one of reference documents for the implementation of the project on capacity building, supported by the European Commission; and (4) to be used as background documents for the pre-feasibility study on erosion and desertification in the Mediterranean for the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development.


GIORDANO, A. 2000. Problems and practices of erosion control management in the Mediterranean region: Synthesis of national reports. Split: PAP/RAC. pp vi + 64. ENG

Soil erosion problems are particularly acute in the Mediterranean region where good quality land is scarce and often threaten by development, and where marginal land is either overexploited or abandoned, and it is also one of the most common types of land degradation processes. In order to make a general assessment of the different situations existing in the Mediterranean basin, the PAP/RAC has decided to investigate soil erosion and desertification following three transects: the first is oriented west-east (Spain-Turkey, passing across Italy); second is oriented north-south (Spain-Morocco); and the third is oriented north-south (Italy-Tunisia, including Malta). This report is a synthesis of the national reports submitted by these countries, with the aim of unifying the common points and enlightening the aspects that are peculiar of the different situations. Main topics and issues considered are the following: (1) statement on natural resources depletion; (2) assessment of soil erosion and desertification; (3) legal and institutional arrangements; and (4) erosion prevention, protection and remedial measures.


ENGLISCH, G., GALLACHER, R., GIORDANO, A., GRIESBACH, J. C., JANSEN, L., and PAVASOVIC, A. 2000. Guidelines for erosion and desertification control management with particular reference to Mediterranean coastal areas/Directives pour la gestion de programmes de contrôle d'érosion et de désertification plus partiuclièrement destinées aux zones côtières méditerranéennes. Split: PAP/RAC. pp x + 107. ENG/FRA
((Download SoilErosion.pdf / 2.979 kb)
(Download Directivesderosion.pdf / 3.203 kb)

The basic inputs used for the preparation of these Guidelines were the experience of FAO AGL and PAP/RAC. These Guidelines are a logical and thematic follow up of the Guidelines on mapping and measurement, published in 1997. The geographical coverage of the Guidelines are the Mediterranean coastal area and river basins. The objective of these Guidelines is related to mitigation of erosion and desertification process in the region and preparation of a practical document to be used as tool when formulating and planning relevant control management programmes and projects. The Guidelines are intended for experts and professionals involved in the control management process, experts in relevant sectoral activities, and decision makers responsible for mitigation and control of erosion and desertification phenomena and processes. The Guidelines describe and recommend: (1) an integrated approach to erosion and desertification phenomena in the region; (2) the basic elements of an integrated erosion and desertification control management process; (3) prerequisites for the implementation of the recommended process; and (4) description of the main phases of the process. Due to the complexity of erosion and desertification phenomena, and to the specific national, local, and ecosystem conditions, the Guidelines should be used in a flexible and creative way, primarily as the basis for the formulation and implementation of relevant control management programmes and projects, together with the previously published Guidelines on mapping and measurement. It is assumed that the document is applicable in wider areas of the Mediterranean coastal states, as well as in other regions, taking into account differences of relevant natural processes, management practices and other area-specific conditions.


PAP/RAC. 1997. National Reports on Pilot Mapping and Measurement of Rainfall-Induced Erosion Processes in the Mediterranean Coastal Areas. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 203. ENG

This document contains national reports of Spain, Tunisia and Turkey on pilot mapping and measurement exercises implemented within the Co-operative project on Mapping and Measurement of Rainfall-Induced Erosion Processes in the Mediterranean Coastal Areas implemented by PAP/RAC in co-operation with FAO and DGCONA-Madrid in the period 1991-1996. The main objective of both mapping and measurement exercises was to provide basis and opportunity for the development of common methodologies and harmonised approaches under different national, site- and erosion processes specific conditions. Therefore, the national reports presented in this document reflect the problems and specificities encountered in the process of both field exercises and development of methodologies. The national reports presented in this document are to be considered as examples of procedure implementation in the development phase of the co-operative project, illustrating numerous technical, logistical and methodological problems encountered. Due to the above and to the relevant technical problems, the reports are presented in their original form and language, without technical upgrading and/or harmonisation. The following mapping exercises are presented: Adra Basin and Vallcebre Area (Spain) by J.A. Carrera Morales, L. Rojo Serrano and J.D. Ruiz Sinoga; Oued Ermel Basin (Tunisia) by A. M'Timet and S. Agrebaoui; and Esen Basin (Turkey) by O. Dogan and N. Kucukcakar. The measurement exercises presented are: Vallcebre Experimental Catchment (Spain) by F. Gallart Gallego; Oued El-Khairat and Sub-Watersheds Oued El Maleh and Oued Eddhieb (Tunisia) by A. Boughrara; and Caybogazi Catchment (Turkey) by O. Dogan and N. Sevinc.


GRIESBACH, J. C., RUIZ SINOGA, J. D., GIORDANO, A., BERNEY, O., GALLART, F., and ROJO, L. 1997. Guidelines for Mapping and Measurement of Rainfall-induced Erosion Processes in the Mediterranean Coastal Areas/Directives pour la cartographie et la mesure des processus d’érosion hydrique dans les zones côtières méditerranéennes. Split: PAP/RAC. pp xii + 70. ENG/FRA/CRO
(Download SoilErosioneng.pdf / 1.772 kb)
(Download SoilErosionfr.pdf / 1.359 kb)

The present Guidelines are one of the outputs of a co-operative effort of PAP/MAP/UNEP, Ministry of Environment/General Directorate for the Conservation of the Nature (DGCONA) - (Madrid) and FAO/AGL, as well as of professional institutions and authorities of Spain, Tunisia and Turkey, relative to the mapping and measurement of rainfall-induced soil erosion. One of the main reasons for implementing the co-operative project lay in the fact that the hitherto practice on mapping and measurement of erosion processes in the Mediterranean coastal areas involved a number of different, often incomparable methodologies and procedures. Therefore, the need was felt to develop a consolidated methodology to be tested through case studies and eventually adopted for general use. The project was implemented in two components: one dedicated to mapping, and the other dedicated to measurement. The objectives of the Guidelines were: to contribute to a better management of soils and other natural resources and to the mitigation of erosion in the Mediterranean coastal areas; to present the methodology, basis and prerequisites for mapping and measurement of erosion process in the region; and to give basic instructions for performing mapping and measurement. The Guidelines are primarily intended for experts in soil erosion and hydrology with certain experience in erosion mapping and/or measurement for practical use; professionals in land-use planning and management, soil management, agriculture and other field; decision-maker in related files.

GIORDANO, A. and MARCHISIO, C. 1989. Analysis and Correlation of the Existing Soil Erosion Maps in the Mediterranean Coastal Zones/Analyse et corrélation des cartes existantes sur l'érosion du sol dans les zones côtières méditerranéennes. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 21. ENG/FRA

The document is divided in six chapters: terminology; description and classification of the methods of soil erosion mapping according to scale, type of erosion, number of parameters and selected instruments; analysis of the documents with regard to their practical value for solving problems; general and specific correlation of maps; general considerations; conclusions and recommendations. The 29 described and analysed documents are grouped according to the specific objectives and the kind of information contained (quantitative and qualitative data). General correlation for 10 principal groups of maps is made, as well as some tentative specific correlations which take into consideration three basic types of climate: temperate, semi-arid, and sub-humid. Finally, a number of recommendation are given for improving the soil erosion mapping method.


IMESON, A. C. 1989. Methods of Soil Erosion Measurement and Monitoring of Interest for the Mediterranean Coastal Zone. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 20. ENG

Very diverse environmental conditions in the Mediterranean coastal zones necessitate the adoption of a complex approach using a wide range of measurement and monitoring techniques. The methods used hitherto, briefly presented in the document, were not sufficiently standardised. Special attention should be paid to rainwash erosion, bounded and unbounded plots, to the great potential of rainfall simulators, and to the use of erosion indicator variables. Measurement at different scales of a wide variety of parameters is also very important. Finally, the way is described of performing measurements at a pilot site.


IMESON, A. C. 1989. Justification of the Project Proposal Based on an Environmental Approach to Erosion Phenomena in the Mediterranean Coastal Zones. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 25. ENG

The Mediterranean environment is vulnerable to erosion, with fragile ecosystems, often unstable soils, and strong seasonal contrasts in climate. There is a backlog in mapping and measurement, but Mediterranean countries still face the problem of information transfer due to a lack of harmonisation and standardisation. It is therefore necessary to adopt an environmentally sound approach which will take into consideration both off-site impacts and other major environmental problems such as climate change and desertification. The benefits of combined multi-scale mapping and measurement programmes were stressed.


MANCINI, F. and GRAZI, S. 1987. Integrated Approach for the Management of Watersheds in Italy. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 37. ENG

After a brief outline of the characteristics of watersheds in the northern section of the Apennines, the Staggia stream catchment was described in detail, where the situation was critical all until the 1920s when a recovery project was prepared. The activities went along two major lines: interventions in forestry and hydraulics. The actual situation is rather good, especially in the state-owned areas (64% of the entire surface). The recovery project was based on the abundance of data on the local environment relevant to various disciplines (geology, pedology, climatology, hydrology, phitogeography)., and the adopted integrated approach was arrived at through co-operation of numerous scientists and technicians.


JANIC, M. 1987. Protection of Agricultural Land from Non-Agricultural Uses in the Adriatic Coastal Zone. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 50. ENG

The experience of the Dalmatia region in the field of protection of agricultural land against non-agricultural uses shows that the following issues are of particular importance: high demand for land for building purposes; price disparity between agricultural and industrial products; marked differences in living conditions between rural and urban areas; inefficient land-use planning policy; lack of adequate land registers; and fragmentation of land. The problem of protection of agricultural land against urban expansion could be resolved through rational town planning and the establishment of economic balance between rural and urban areas.


UNEP and PAP/RAC. 1987. Promotion of Soil Protection as an Essential Component of Environmental Protection in Mediterranean Coastal Zones (Documents produced in 1985-87)/Promotion de la protection des sols comme élément essentiel de la protection de l'environnement dans les zones côtières méditerranéennes (Documents rédigés en 1985-87). MAP Technical Reports Series No.16. Athens: MAP/UNEP- PAP/RAC. pp 424. ENG/FRA

The document comprises: 12 national reports on the soil characteristics of the Mediterranean coastal areas, and on their protection; a synthesis report prepared on the basis of those national reports; a note on the expert meeting on the subject held in Split in November 1985; 6 demonstration studies dealing with the problems of soil protection against erosion and degradation; a synthesis report of those studies; a proposal for a project of Mediterranean co-operation in the field of erosion combating; and conclusions of a seminar held in Split in April 1987 in order to present the studies and the project proposal.


AGASSI, M., BENYAMINI, Y., MORIN, J., MARISH Sh., and HENKIN, E. 1986. The Israeli Concept for Runoff and Erosion Control in Semi-Arid and Arid Zones in Mediterranean Basin. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 70. ENG

Studies of the impact of rainstorm energy on the processes of soil crusting, infiltration, runoff and erosion, as well as studies of chemical processes occurring at the soil surface during rains and irrigation, brought about the Israeli concept of runoff and erosion control: (a) soil crusting during rainstorm and irrigation is the dominant factor affecting the rainfall-induced soil erosion; (b) the study of rainfall-runoff interrelation is much easier and cheaper than the study of erosion processes (runoff control enables erosion control); (c) conservation tillage and gypsum application increase infiltrability and surface storage, reducing the runoff and erosion considerably; and (d) with the runoff reduction, the quantity of water in the soil is increased, resulting in a significant increase of crop yields and pasture biomass.


AZEBA, M. and FILALI FADIL, A. 1986. L'impact de l'aménagement des forêts sur la protection des sols et de l'environnement au Maroc. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 63. FRA

En plus des données sur les caractéristiques naturelles de la région du Rif et sur le degré d'érosion, dans cette étude sont présentées les mesures prises dans le cadre de plusieurs projets dont les études de base ont été menées en collaboration avec la FAO. Ces mesures concernent les interventions biologiques relatives au reboisement et aux cultures fouragères et arboricoles, ainsi que les actions mécaniques consistant en la construction et l'installation de seuils en maçonnerie de pierres sèches et gabions, seuils métalliques, etc. Ces interventions ont lieu à chaque fois en collaboration étroite avec la population locale, tout en tenant compte de ses besoins.


BACCAR, H.and HENTATI, A. 1986. Etude portant sur la protection des terres agricoles dans les zones côtières contre l'utilisation non agricole – Tunisie. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 30. FRA

Certains territoires en Tunisie évoluent vers une suprématie des utilisations non agricoles des terres au dépens des utilisations agricoles, ce qui a engendré des problèmes de dégradation de l'environnement (contamination chimique des nappes) et de déséquilibre économique et social qui menace l'organisation économique du territoire. Les mesures prises par le gouvernement tunisien sont principalement d'ordre législatif. La Loi sur la protection des terres agricoles est d'une importance particulière, car elle permet une meilleure gestion de l'espace, et une préservation de l'environnement et de l'activité agricole, surtour autour des villes.


KILINC, M.Y. and CELIKKOL, T. 1986. Making and Use of the Soil Erosion Maps in the Mediterranean Coastal Zone of Turkey. Split: PAP/RAC. pp v + 63. ENG

Rainfall-induced erosion is one of most important environmental problems of Turkey where sediment discharge per unit area is considerable, as compared to other European countries. Misuse of land, forests and other natural resources, as well as overgrazing, are the principal causes of erosion, which in turn causes sedimentation, pollution, flooding and deterioration of environment. In order to determine erosion risks, to present general erosion control measures for forests and agricultural land, to make land capability classification, and to give directions for an appropriate land use, soil and soil erosion maps were prepared. Land use in Turkey, and especially in its Mediterranean areas has to be planned on the basis of the land capability classification. A long-term solution to those problems could be achieved by encouraging people to switch to other activities which would not harm the soils and the environment.


INSTITUTE FOR TOURISM, ZAGREB. 1986. Development of Mediterranean Tourism Harmonized with the Environment: a Synthesis of National Reports. Split: PAP/RAC. pp 45. ENG

The sudden, and often uncontrolled development of tourism in the Mediterranean caused numerous environmental problems. The Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention gave PAP/RAC the task to tackle those problems. In order to get a good insight into the situation and problems in the region, a large number of national reports was commissioned. Six national reports were received (from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Yugoslavia). The synthesis report presents briefly all six national reports and draws general conclusions. It results that the basic problems of Cyprus, Italy and Spain regard overbuilding of the coastal areas and concentration of tourism on the coast, while Yugoslavia and Turkey face a chaotic proliferation of secondary homes to which large areas have been lost in the coastal zones. To a certain extent, that problem is also felt in Italy and Spain. Future tourism development plans of the region have to be oriented to diversification of tourism activities and raising of the quality of services, along with the protection of the natural and cultural environment which is the basic factor of attractiveness for tourism. The authors propose some measures to be taken in the future, such as the inclusion of the hinterlands in tourism activities, taking appropriate stimulation and restrictive legal measures, and the application of modern instruments of integrated management of coastal zones, such as carrying capacity assessment (CCA) for tourist areas, environmental impact assessment (EIA) for all planned activities, study of relations between tourism and cultural heritage, and the study of coast-hinterland interrelations. At that, cooperation among the countries of the region is highly advisable, as well as with the specialized international organizations, such as WTO.


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