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Home arrow Study sites arrow Guadalentin Basin, Murcia, Spain
Guadalentin Basin, Murcia, Spain PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joost   

Responsible IP partner: EEZA-CSIC.

1. General information

Main reason for selecting this site/region
This is an area where land degradation phenomena can be readily observed: soil erosion by rills and gullies are frequent, due to very frequent tillage, fallow land and land abandonment in a semi-arid climatic context with rains of high intensity, and due to some rock types very susceptible to erosion. Also soil salinisation is found in some parts of the basin. Measures to combat all or part of these problems have been applied for over 100 years, though only in some parts they have been successful. There is a wealth of data from previous research projects on the area, which can effectively contribute to find useful indicators for land degradation as well as a range of mitigation strategies from which to choose the most adequate to combat desertification.

Participating local partner institutions
- Instituto Universitario del Agua y del Medio Ambiente, http://www.um.es/inuama/
- Fundación Instituto Euromediterráneo  de Hidrotecnia, http://www.f-ieh.com/
- Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura, http://www.mma.es/agua/actuaciones/noticias/segura.htm


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2. Geographical description
Geologically the Guadalentin basin lies on the eastern edge of the Betic ranges, whose SW-NE axis and faults have determined the main structure of the drainage network. The Guadalentin is an ephemeral river for the major part of its course. The upper section of the basin has a rather dense drainage density in the headwater areas of Sierra de Maria (max 2045 m asl), Sierra del Gigante (1554 m), Sierra Espuña (1585 m), all on Cretaceous and Jurassic limestones and dolomites, and Sierra de las Estancias (1467 m) on Paleozoic shales and phyllites, but also several meseta-like plains at altitudes of ca. 1000 m. The middle section is characterised by an undulating landscape with long pediments and incised river terraces. The lower reach is characterised by a nearly flat valley bottom with series of well developed alluvial fans at the base of the sierras. The basin covers an area of 3300 km². The climate varies from semi-arid to sub-humid Mediterranean (annual P from < 300 mm to over 500 mm; average annual T from 18 to 12°C). Precipitation shows an inter-annual coefficient of variation between 0.2 and 0.5, though high inter-seasonal variation is also present as the main proportion of the annual total may fall in any of the four seasons. Droughts, centred in the summer, commonly last for more than 4-5 months. Annual potential evapotranspiration rates of 1000-2000 mm are common.
The main land uses at present include under dryland conditions almonds and herbaceous crops, and under irrigation, small orchards with citrus and greenhouses. Seminatural ecosystems include shrublands of Stipa tenacissima, Rosmarinus officinalis and Anthyllis cytisoides. Forests are dominated by Pinus halepensis in part as a result of afforestation policies over the past 150 years.



 Image Image

The figures above show a map of the vegetation and land uses of the Guadalentin basin, and two pictures taken in the area.

3. Institutional and political setting
Land degradation has long been recognized in Spain, but targeted research did not start until the second half of the 20th century, with the creation of the ‘Servicio Central de Conservación de Suelos’ (Central Service of Soil Conservation) in 1955. Many soil erosion and conservation issues are administered by different institutions within the Ministry of the Environment  (Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza, DGCN), formerly ICONA, and the 10 Basin Authorities (Confederaciones Hidrográficas).

Autonomous governments and national research institutions (e.g. CSIC ‘Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas’ (High Research Council for Scientific Research) and CEDEX (‘Centro de Estudios y Experimentación de Obras Públicas’, Centre for Experimental Studies of Public Works) and universities have been the primary contributers to land degradation and erosion research over the two last decades. In 1981, the ongoing LUCDEME (Lucha contra la desertificación en el Mediterráneo) Project was started, to combat desertification in Mediterranean basins. In 1995, RESEL (Red de Estaciones de Evaluación y Seguimiento de la Erosión y la Desertificación en España (Network of Experimental Stations for Assessing and Monitoring Soil Erosion and Desertification in Spain) was established.
The National Research and Development Plan is the basic instrument for Spanish research policy and includes two National Programmes dealing directly with the causes, consequences and control of both desertification and soil erosion. For the last 20 years, soil erosion research has been conducted and funded by both national and European institutions.

Rural Development Policy Regulation 1257/99 provides funding from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) to establish new development rural plans for Good Farming Practices (GFP). However, until recently, lack of co-ordination and co-finances meant bureaucratic delays in these programs. A further instrument of policy development is the afforestation of agricultural lands, its main objective is to increase the income of farmers affected by EU policies, by promoting forestry as an alternative use. The Forestry Strategy, developed by the NFP (National Forest Plan), promotes reforestation of degraded plant cover areas, wildfire protection and application of silvicultural treatments to improve forest quality.

In the future, ‘The National Plan of Hydrological Forest Restoration and Erosion Control’, will be integrated in the National Actions Programme to Combat Desertification (NAPD),  with the main objective of sustainable development in Spain’s arid, semiarid and dry subhumid areas and, particularly, the prevention and reduction of land degradation, the rehabilitation of partly-degraded land and reclamation of desertified areas.
In 2002 DGCN initiated a national inventory of soil erosion (INES), which aims to locate, quantify and analyse the evolution of erosion processes in Spain. The inventory maps of the province of Murcia has been completed and will be used by the DESIRE IP.

4. Relevant end-users / stakeholder groups
•    COAG-IR (Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos – Iniciativa Rural), http://www.arrakis.es/~coag-irm/
•    COATO (Empresa cooperativa agraria), http://www.coato.com/
•    Asociación de Propietarios Forestales de la Región de Murcia.
•    Mr. Leopolodo Rojo Serrano, Coordinator of Nacional UNCCD (Alternate Spanish Focal Point UNCCD)
•    Instituto Universitario del Agua y del Medio Ambiente, http://www.um.es/inuama/
•    Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura, http://www.mma.es/agua/actuaciones/noticias/segura.htm

5. Past and on-going projects
Most relevant past and ongoing research projects on land degradation and desertification in the selected study region:
•    MEDALUS I, II, III (< 1998). The goal of the Regional Indicators Project was to develop a set of regional indicators to provide a planning tool for application to desertification at regional, national and European scales.
•    MEDACTION (< 2004) adopted an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach, involving social and natural scientists as well as the principal stakeholders in the region to: a) develop land use change scenarios at various scales, b) analyse effects of past policies in four target areas; c) analyse the costs of land degradation and benefits of mitigation measures; d) develop options for land use policies, mitigation strategies, and incentives to combat desertification.
•    DESERTLINKS (< 2004) which primary objective is to contribute to the work of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification by developing a desertification indicator system for Mediterranean Europe.

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