SALAM-MED: SUSTAINABLE APPROACHES TO LAND AND WATER MANAGEMENT TO MEDITERRANEAN DRYLANDS
Land degradation and desertification in dryland Mediterranean socio-ecological systems are the outcomes of the structural coupling of ecological and socio-economic processes, in areas where increasing climatic pressures are combined with weak adaptive capacity.
Researchers from NEO and the Academy of Athens are participating in SALAM-MED, a RIA project funded by PRIMA (2022-2025). SALAM-MED underlines the need of an integrated approach in restoring degraded land and enhancing resilience of socio-ecological systems around the Mediterranean. The Greek case study is located in Messinia, and the aim is to assess agri-ecological farming practices for improving soil quality & water retention together with local stakeholders towards an Integrated Olive Orchard Management. During the project we are planning to run 2 different experiments, one for soil erosion on hilly terrains and another one for sustainable irrigation system.
SOIL EROSION EXPERIMENT
Land desertification is becoming increasingly important for the Mediterranean basin, due to climate change and other increasing pressures on agricultural land. The olive sector plays a respective role, as intensive farming methods can deliver negative implications for the provisioning of several agroecosystem services, especially due to soil erosion and biodiversity loss. On the other hand, agroecological approaches, including olive farming practices such as reduced tillage/no-tillage and use of cover crops, can mitigate soil degradation and enhance carbon sequestration. We have set up an experiment in a hilly olive grove at Messinia, south Peloponnese, a main olive production area of Greece, where different soil treatments were set in 9 plots (3 plots/treatment) including: i) the use of a cover crop mixture (Pisum sativum, Vicia faba, Hordium vulgare), ii) herbicide application, and iii) natural vegetation (control). A survey of the soil’s physicochemical properties is being performed at plot level once per year, coupled with monitoring of soil nutrient status, carbon sequestration, ground-dwelling arthropod diversity, yield and climatic conditions. In addition we have established a surface run-off collection system which allows us to take samples and measure the sediments after every rainfall event, comparing the behaviour of each treatment.
In the arid landscapes of the Mediterranean, water management has emerged as a pressing environmental concern exacerbated by the challenges of climate change. NEO in collaboration with the Academy of Athens, committed to advancing sustainable agricultural practices, has taken a pioneering role in addressing this issue. By establishing a comprehensive experiment that evaluates three distinct irrigation methods—phenology-based irrigation, rainfed agriculture, and conventional irrigation practices- we aim to deepen our comprehension of how water usage impacts the quality of olive orchards in these dryland regions. In doing so, the project not only contributes to the conservation of water resources but also offers valuable insights into adapting agricultural strategies to a changing climate, promoting resilience in the face of environmental challenges.