UK Nonlinear News, October 1996
International Ecotechnology Research Centre, Cranfield


An Integrated Methodology for Projecting the Impact of Climate Change and Human Activity on Soil Erosion and Ecosystem Degradation in the Mediterranean: A Climatological Gradient and Dynamic Systems Approach.

Project Summary

The general objective is to develop an improved basis and practical modelling tools that allow projections to be made about the future risks resulting from climate change and human activity in the Mediterranean limestone and marl areas. The approach is to apply a complex systems methodology that requires i) field studies along climatological transects, ii) response unit methodology development and iii) modelling.

The specific objectives may be summarised as:

  1. To obtain harmonised data and undertake basic studies of key processes of erosion and desertification along climatologically documented transects in Alicante, Crete and Israel.
  2. To establish from field studies, models and remote sensing how climate influences processes inducing soil erosion and ecosystem degradation.
  3. To develop a methodology (response unit, modelling and remote sensing for a) scaling up process pattern relationships, and b) integrating climatologically, socio- economically and biophysically driven processes.
  4. To implement the methodology 3) in a pilot area (in Alicante) to make projections about the future impact of climate change on soil erosion and desertification.
Specifically, the IERC is developing an integrated, multi-scale self-organizing model setting the problems of erosion and desertification within a holistic framework of nested "response units". The approach will use data collected by ERMES I and other EU projects, and will decide on the key variables that need to be described by the models. We shall also collect data concerning land-use, demography and climatic change over the past 50 years. Interviews will be carried out with farmers in the region to obtain details about the past and present concerning farm sizes, disperal, cropping, productivity levels, farming inputs, water use and source, water quality and availability, technologies and soil qualities. This will allow a parametrization of farmers' responses to any changing situation, and an estimate of the delays involved in these responses.

Also, models will be developed that link vegetation cover, porosity, soil micro- organisms, root systems and the grazing activities of herbivores in order to generate the emergence of a first level of response unit. This will be developed into a hierarchical framework that will link the local response units to the field scale, and these in turn to the larger scale sctructures of kilometres, taking us towards the scale of the whole landscape, and of that easily related to remote sensing. At each scale the model will capture the co-evolution of the units, and the spatial organization that may result spontaneously through the non-linear interactions. These models will then be integrated with the socio-economic models generated from the modelling of farmers' decision making. Scenarios of climate change, of land use responses and of the response of the vegetation, hydrology, soil and erodability will then be possible.

In addition to this, the model developed previously in the Archaeomedes project will be further developed in this way, so as to produce an integrated improved version, linking multiple spatial scales.


Professor Peter M.Allen
International Ecotechnology Research Centre,
Cranfield University
associated with University of Molise, Italy (Mazzoleni), Bar Ilan University (Lavee) and the University of Amsterdam (Imeson)


University of Valencia, Department of Geography, Faculty of Geography and History, Spain (Calvo, UVEG)
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Department of Desertification, Valencia
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Department of Ecology and Systematics, Faculty of Biology, Greece (Arianoutsou, University of Athens)
University of Trier, FB VI Geography/ Geosciences, Remote Sensing Department, Germany (Hill)

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Last Updated: 7th October 1996.