Assessing the costs of land degradation: a case study for the Puentes catchment, South East Spain

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Whereas many studies point out the economic benefits of controlling land degradation through sustainable land management (SLM) approaches, there is often a lack of local adoption of SLM techniques. Analysis of the local impacts and costs of land degradation is critical for understanding farmers' responses to land degradation. The objective of this paper is to analyse the local costs of land degradation in the Puentes catchment in southeast Spain. This catchment has been identified as particularly vulnerable to erosion, yet farmers show a general lack of interest in applying erosion control techniques. The paper subsequently analyses land degradation processes in the Puentes catchment, the income derived from agriculture and several other ecosystem services, and the local costs of land degradation. Erosion is widespread in the catchment, comprising sheet and rill erosion as well as gulley erosion. Relatively high erosion rates are encountered in cropland. The most important source of local income is irrigated agriculture, with revenues of up to 1350/ha y-1. Dryland agriculture, hunting and herding provide additional income. The costs of erosion on cropland, calculated with a replacement method, vary from around 5/ha y-1 on slopes between five per cent and ten per cent, to around 50/ha y-1 on slopes between 30 per cent and 50 per cent. Except on the steepest slopes, these costs are relatively low for the farmers, which explains the limited application of erosion control techniques in the catchment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-642
JournalLand Degradation and Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • erosion rates
  • soil-erosion
  • runoff


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