Ecosystem responses to land abandonment in Western Mediterranean Mountains

Asunción Romero-Díaz, José Damián Ruiz-Sinoga, Francisco Robledano-Aymerich, Eric C. Brevik, Artemio Cerda Bolinches*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural expansion in the Mediterranean resulted in plant and soil degradation due to the intensive use, climate conditions, and rugged terrain. After abandonment, the recovery of vegetation contributed to improvement in soil quality from a hydrological, pedological and geomorphological point of view. This paper shows three examples of ecosystem evolution in abandoned fields in Valencia, Murcia and Andalucia and the application of different methodological approaches that resulted in similar findings. In Valencia, the main responses were the recovery of vegetation after land abandonment and an increase in organic matter and infiltration capacity of soils. In Murcia, with the exception of some terraced areas on marls, where erosion processes following abandonment were important, land abandonment resulted in vegetation recovery, improved soil properties, and reduced surface wash and soil losses. In Andalucia, research along climatological gradients showed the relationship between vegetation patterns and soil moisture and the control that climate exerts on hydrological and erosive behaviour. The experimental research conducted in three different regions in Western Mediterranean demonstrated that abandonment can result in recovery of the geo-ecosystem as vegetation and soil quality improvements were shown. The marls areas in Murcia were the exception with low soil quality and low vegetation cover, and as a consequence showed evidence of high erosion rates after abandonment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-835
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Erosion
  • Human impact
  • Infiltration
  • Mediterranean
  • Soil quality
  • Vegetative recovery


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