Assessment of the impacts of clear-cutting on soil loss by water erosion in Italian forests: First comprehensive monitoring and modelling approach

Borrelli, Pasquale and Panagos, Panos and Märker, Michael and Modugno, Sirio and Schütt, Brigitta. (2016) Assessment of the impacts of clear-cutting on soil loss by water erosion in Italian forests: First comprehensive monitoring and modelling approach. CATENA, 149 (3). pp. 770-781.

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As a member of the European Union, Italy has committed to the maintenance and protection of its forests based on sustainable forest development and management practices. According to Eurostat, Italy has the seventh largest forest surface available for wood supply in the EU-28, which is equal to 8.086 million hectares. For 2012, the Italian National Institute of Statistics estimated the total roundwood production of Italy to be 7.7 million m 3 , from a harvested forest surface of 61,038 ha. Large parts of the country's forests, mainly located in vulnerable mountainous landscapes that are highly sensitive to environmental changes, are subject to anthropogenic disturbance driven by wood supply interests. Despite the extensive logging activities and the well-known impacts that such management practices have on the soil-related forest ecosystems, there is a lack of spatially and temporally explicit information about the removal of trees. Hence, this study aims to: i) assess the soil loss by water erosion in Italian forest areas, ii) map forest harvests and iii) evaluate the effects of logging activities in terms of soil loss by means of comprehensive remote sensing and GIS modelling techniques. The study area covers about 785.6 × 10 4 ha, which corresponds to the main forest units of the CORINE land cover 2006 database (i.e. broad-leaved forests, coniferous forests and mixed forests). Annual forest logging activities were mapped using Landsat imagery. Validation procedures were applied. A revised version of the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) was used to predict the soil loss potential due to rill and inter-rill processes. To ensure a thorough modelling approach, the input parameters were calculated using the original methods reported in the USDA handbooks. The derived high-resolution data regarding forest cover change shows that 317,535 ha (4.04% of the total forest area in Italy) were harvested during the period under review. The predicted long-term annual average soil loss rate was 0.54 Mg ha − 1 yr − 1 . The average rate of soil loss in forests that remained undisturbed during the modelled period is equal to 0.33 Mg ha − 1 yr − 1 . Notably, about half of the soil loss (45.3%) was predicted for the logged areas, even though these cover only about 10.6% of the Italian forests. The identified erosion hotspots may represent a serious threat for the soil-related forest ecosystems, and are in contrast to the EC Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection and Water Framework Directive.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Umweltgeowissenschaften (Alewell)
UniBasel Contributors:Borrelli, Pasquale
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:24 Oct 2017 08:16
Deposited On:24 Oct 2017 08:16

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