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Home arrow Working blocks arrow Work Block 2: Land Degradation Indicators
Work Block 2: Land Degradation Indicators PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joost   
Coordinator: 9 - Agricultural University of Athens, GR
Participants: 1,2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28

a)    Define a practical number of indicators based on a shortlist of indicators available from literature, previous and ongoing research programs.
b)    Analysis of stakeholders perceptions of desertification: an institutional and stakeholder analysis will be performed (with WB1 and WB3) to characterize major stakeholder groups in different sectors and regions and socio-economic backgrounds, their interests, power, the current formal and informal institutional settings.
c)    Documentation and development of a harmonized data base of indicators used or being used by different parties in the selected study areas by conducting field surveys on prevailing land use types affecting desertification in Mediterranean locales.
d)    Comparison and linking of indicators and land management practices
e)    Development of a methodology to simulate and evaluate the various land management practices and techniques in terms of land degradation and economic feasibility for combating desertification using the appropriate indicators.

General information
Many international and national organizations have since long recognized that environmental and socio-economic indicators are playing an increasingly important role in supporting of development policies for combating desertification. An indicator is a measurement that reflects the status of some social, economic or environmental system. Indicators can be used to track changes in complex systems and monitor progress towards pre-determined goals. Their role is to simplify the complex interrelations of the socio-economic and environmental reality and convey them in an unambiguous fashion. In this way indicators can be used to integrate soscio-economic and bio-physical factors. The necessity of elaborating indicators is one of the priorities identified by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Convention regards indicators as the appropriate tool to provide operational support to a wide range of activities such as assessing and mapping the extent of desertification, as well as determining the causes, quantifying the impacts, justifying expenditure for mitigation measures and monitoring the efficiency of the measures undertaken. The identification, evaluation and the effective use of indicators requires a series of characteristics that have been proposed by various authors (see e.g. Stein et al., 2001). In 2001 the Desertlinks project was set up to assist the Naional Action Plans of the Annex IV countries with their indicator needs and this resulted in the state-of-the art Dis4me indicator system that can be consulted on line by stakeholders.    
The systems analysis approach applied in the interrelations between the natural system and the socio-economic system may result in the well known DPSIR (Drivers –Pressure -State –Impact –Responses) framework. However, it should be noted that the simple hierarchical causal relations of the DPSIR approach cannot represent a complex non-linear reality. The Desertlinks project (Brandt et al) evaluated other indicator concepts that could provide a basis for communicating information about desertification and proposed that the concepts of functions, social, economic and natural capital and adaptive management were valuable in overcome the problems of scale, non-linearity and integration. Large advances have been made in understanding the interrelations that exist between the natural system and the socio- economic system.

WP2.1 Identify potential land degradation indicators
Physical, social, economic, technological and environmental factors all put pressure on land use resources. An integrated approach, which incorporates indicators from many different sources with stage of land degradation and desertification and effectiveness of the various land management practices, will be developed. The developed desertification indicator system will be used as tool to explore, with selected stakeholders, the relationship between degradation of the environment and human activity; in particular the effects that different land management practices and intervention policies have on the environmental sensitivity of an area. Questions of environmental security can also be addressed. This will enable land users to evaluate the efficiency and efficacy of different mitigation or intervention strategies regarding protection of the environment from desertification. The indicator system also will allow for effective land management and degradation monitoring and enable different ecosystem vulnerability scenarios to be tested in order to assess critical stress factors and their impacts on desertification. A major innovation in this work package is the drawing together of a wide range of indicators, applicable for different scales into an integrated indicator system which can then be used for examining different management scenarios. The main objective of this WP is to identify potential land degradation indicators from policy-makers, land managers and researchers. Specifically the work proposed in this WP includes the following:
1. Reviewing literature: A review will be made of indicator concepts and systems relevant to desertification, using results of projects such as MEDALUS, MEDRAP, DESERTLINKS (DIS4ME indicator database) and using results from WB1. This would cover concepts used in biophysical and socio-economic desertification studies and those applied in other areas of environmental change. Indicator concepts applied in different action plans will be identified and categorised. In many cases it will be possible to update deliverables and publications from these earlier projects (for example Imeson 2005a, 2005b and 2005c).
2. Focus group approach: In each of the study areas, focus group meetings will be organized in which participants will be asked to provide their opinion about the use of indicators. This approach was successfully demonstrated by both the MEDACTION and DESERTLINKS projects in which they were employed. A structured questionnaire of indicators will be prepared and administered to the participants. The proposed indicators will then be qualitatively evaluated using Multi-Criteria Evaluation in focus groups. This will lead to a short-list of indicators that stakeholders feel are most relevant and important and that they can easily use (or relate to) without extra training or equipment. In this way, we ensure that local indicators can be used easily and accurately by land managers themselves to monitor their progress towards sustainability goals. At the same time, using the same approach, policy-makers, stakeholders and researchers will work together to identify policy-relevant indicators at a national scale that can be measured using more technical approaches. The participants will be selected so that they represent major types of land users or policy makers in their respective study areas such as individual farmers, farmers unions, municipalities, NCCD, SMEs, NGOs, institutes, etc. The expected outcome of the focus groups approach will be the identification of candidate indicators to evaluate land management practices that impinge on and influence land degradation and desertification. In this way, the defined indicators will complement the conducted farm survey research.
The analysis of stakeholder perceptions will be based on an institutional analysis and stakeholders involvement. A comparative analysis will reveal if the perceptions of different stakeholder groups diverge and assess the potential of the current actor network to cope with desertification and resolve conflicts. It will be further explored if the overall awareness of the problem and key factors perceived by stakeholders are different from the results derived from the factual analysis.
3. Farm Survey Research: In all study areas, survey research will be conducted for different land use types (such as olive groves, vineyards, cereals, almonds, cotton, pastures, oak forests, pine forests, etc.) representative of Mediterranean environmental conditions. A list of candidate indicators related to the social, economical, physical, and land management characteristics and identified from the literature review and focus group approach will be defined. The study will include: (a) state indicators which allow monitoring of the succes of mitigation measures, and which probably need to be tailored for maximum sensitivity to each particular technique, and (b) driver and pressure indicators focussing on conditions where remedial intervention may be needed to prevent desertification. Furthermore, the analysis will include indicators related to local (farm level) and regional conditions (municipality, watershed) such as land use type and its history, land ownership, farm size, application of fertilisers and pesticides, soil properties, relief, type of vegetation and plant cover, tillage practises, water quality and quantity, soil erosion control measures, soil water conservation measures, subsidies allocated, population density, migration rate, etc. Each indicator will be described by defining distinct classes. The classes will be defined using existing classification systems such as the European geo-referenced soil data base, or existing research data. The various classes of the indicators used will be organized according to the importance to desertification risk Based on the existing land use types and landscapes in the study areas, the indicators describing the applied management practices including crop management, land husbandry practices, soil water conservation measures and soil erosion control measures will be identified. The social, economic, and physical environment characteristics affecting land management practices and techniques in the study areas will also be identified.
The indicators and their related datasets will be included in the Harmonised Database System (HIS) that is developed in WB6, with which a close cooperation will be realized.
WP2.2 Evaluate and short-list proposed indicators
In this WP methods are developed to identify the most appropriate and effective indicators suited to a range of local physical and socio-economic conditions for assessing the effectiveness of the various land management practices in land uses and landscapes prone to desertification.
Using the farm survey data and following a participatory approach, a comparative analysis will be conducted of the various indicators, applied in the study areas. Based on the selected land use types, the various indicators describing the applied management practices including crop management, land husbandry practices, soil water conservation measures and soil erosion control measures will be identified. Using statistical analysis, the indicator database will be split in a number of sets with respect to their effects on soil degradation and soil restoration summarised into developed indicators. Additionally the obtained data of the farm surveys will be statistically analyzed separately for each land use type in order to define: (a) the correlation of the defined indicators to the stage of land degradation (correlation coefficient), (b) the interrelationships between various indicators (analysis of covariance), (c) the effectiveness of each indicator to evaluate the sensitivity to desertification (analysis of variance). Furthermore, a multiple regression analysis will be applied separately for each land use type with dependent variable the desertification risk and independent variables the identified indicators and empirical relations will be defined. The results of this work will be fed back to stakeholders to make a final indicator list.
Using existing knowledge for assessing land degradation and desertification risk derived in previous research projects such as PESERA, TERON, MEDALUS, DESERTLINKS, and ongoing projects such as RECONDES, DESURVEY, and using the obtained empirical relations combined with economic parameters in a systematic fashion, a methodology will be derived for simulating and evaluating the effectiveness of the various management practices and techniques for combating desertification (WB3), using indicators.
Finally a manual on “Using Indicators for Identifying Best Land Management Practices for Combating Desertification” will be prepared including: (a) description of the identified indicators, (b) which indicators are suitable to assess which practices, and (c) a methodology for assessing the various management practices and techniques with respect to their efficiency for combating desertification, using indicators.

WB2 will identify and list desertification indicators. WB2 will determine which indicators are suitable for use by specific users (farmers, land managers, extensionists, policy makers, NAPs, UNCCD, etc.) and how these should be presented as lists and in decision support formats for WB6. The set of indicators resulting from WB2 will be tested in WB4, where the conservation strategies and management practices that are designed in WB3 are tested. A close cooperation between WB2 and WB4 will be assured to evaluate and quantify the effectiveness of the indicator sets with the monitoring and modelling results that are obtained in the hotspot areas.

2.1.1    A detailed report on indicators applied in the various land use types in each study area.
2.1.2    A detailed report on the analysis of the main drivers of desertification (law and policy) as well as of the impact of desertification on social, economic and natural capital and on the ecological and economic functions.
2.1.3    A data base including tabulated data for the various indicators existing in the study areas.
2.2.1    A report on the comparative analysis of indicators existing in the study areas.
2.2.2    A report on the developed methodology for evaluation of applied land management practices and techniques in terms on land degradation and economic feasibility for combating desertification using indicators.
2.2.3    A manual on “Using Indicators for Identifying Best Management Practices for Combating Desertification”.
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