Linking trajectories of land change, land degradation processes and ecosystem services

D. Smiraglia*, T. Ceccarelli, S. Bajocco, L. Salvati, L. Perini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

145 Citations (Scopus)


Land Degradation (LD) is a complex phenomenon resulting in a progressive reduction in the capacity of providing ecosystem services (ES). Landscape transformations promoting an unsustainable use of land often reveal latent processes of LD. An evaluation carried out in respect to the different ecosystem services is nowadays regarded as the most appropriate approach for assessing the effects of LD. The aim of this study is to develop an evaluation framework for identifying the linkages between land changes, LD processes and ES and suggesting Sustainable Land Management (SLM) options suited to reverse (or mitigate) LD impact. A SWOT analysis was carried out with the aim to identify internal and external factors that are favorable (or unfavorable) to achieve the proposed SLM actions. The study areas are the Fortore valley and the Valpadana, in Italy. The main trajectory identified for the Fortore valley is related to land abandonment due to population aging and the progressive emigration started in the 1950s. The most relevant LD processes are soil erosion and geomorphological instability, affecting regulating services such as natural hazard and erosion control. SLM options should consider interventions to contrast geomorphological instability, the promotion of climate smart agriculture and of typical products, and an efficient water resources management. The main trajectories identified for Valpadana are related to urban expansion and farmland abandonment and, as a consequence, land take due to anthropogenic pressure and woodland expansion as the main LD process. The reduction of food production was identified as the most relevant provisioning service affected. SLM should envisage best practices finalized to water saving and soil consumption reduction: efficient irrigation solutions, climate smart agriculture and zero sealing practices. This study highlights the diagnostic value of the suggested approach where LD processes are elicited from land change trajectories determining specific impacts on ES and providing operational support for the implementation of SLM options.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
Pages (from-to)590-600
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Land abandonment
  • Land take
  • Soil degradation
  • Sustainable land management
  • SWOT analysis


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