Scientific Seminar: findings
Scientific Seminar: Water, soil and fodder feature key roles within Mediterranean forest ecosystems
The conservation and proper management of Mediterranean forests have crucial effects on the sustainability of other resources like soil, water, fodder and wildlife, in the forest itself as well as in adjacent lands. However, improper management of forest resources, forest degradation due to overgrazing or deforestation can result in (i) soil degradation and in the worst case in desertification; (ii) the disappearance of vegetation used as fodder; (iii) the reduction of water quality, and (iv) the reduction of forest goods and services. In addition, the interplay among forests, grazing, soil conditions, and water flows is of a dynamic and interrelated nature, and proper land management should quantify the trade-offs among these strategic resources in context of rapid climatic and land use changes.
There is a broad diversity of factors affecting these interrelated resources such as different geographic and time scales, human pressure, different types of risks, vegetation covers, hydrological systems as well as their economic nature and social contexts.
The scientific seminar highlighted that soil is a vital non-renewable resource with potentially rapid degradation rates and extremely slow formation and regeneration processes. Soil erosion and degradation, when occurring in dry areas, like the Mediterranean region, can lead to desertification, which is triggered by a combination of factors: harsh climatic conditions (droughts, aridity, wind, irregular and intense precipitation regimes) and inappropriate land use management and land cover patterns (e.g. sparse vegetation) and natural hazards (e.g. forest fires).
The scientific session dealing with water resources provided key information about the scarcity of water in the Mediterranean region, due to climatic factors: limited and irregular rainfall -typically, heavy autumn/winter rainfall with high intensity resulting in important runoff (and soil erosion) - high evaporative demand, and important social factors: changes in land use (especially the need for more irrigated agriculture) to cope with a growing demography, in particular in urban areas, etc. The issue of climate change is (and will be) aggravating the situation as it is expected to: i) increase water scarcity (less rainfall and runoff) and decrease water resources; ii) impact, through higher aridity and more frequent extreme events (heat wave, dry spells) the vitality, resilience, and even survival of trees and ecosystems. In this context, the interactions between forest cover and water are quite complex in regard to variables such as low flow, high flow, water yield, water quality etc. They depend on many parameters whose some have a site-specific nature. It is why in the scientific literature contradictory results appear. In fact, “no one size fits all”. Therefore the question of the water cycle and water budget should be considered in an integrated manner, taking into account both the blue water (the water having the liquid form, used for the human needs or flowing to the oceans) and the green water. Such an approach of water flows raises a lot of scientific challenges for the future.
Finally, the seminar presented and discussed the importance of herbaceous and woody species growing in Mediterranean forests that constitute an important year-round source of fodder for livestock. However, forest grazing, if conducted in uncontrolled manner, using a higher stocking rate than the carrying capacity (overgrazing), can severely damage forests ecosystems and, as consequence, would affect soil and water resources. In order to avoid overgrazing, range management should be based on scientific information and properly coordinated with forest management and vice versa.
Best poster awardThe Scientific Seminar was accompanied by a poster exhibition. "How affect the athropic actions on the cork oak forests of NW Tunisia?", by Torres E. et al was acknowledge as the best poster presented.
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