Title: Assessment of the impacts of clear-cutting on soil loss bywater erosion in Italian forests: First comprehensive monitoring and modelling approach
Citation: CATENA vol. 149 no. Part 3 p. 770-781
Publication Year: 2017
JRC N°: JRC96837
ISSN: 0341-8162
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0341816216300698
DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2016.02.017
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: 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 m3, from a harvested forest surface of 61,038 hectares. 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 x 104 hectares, 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 (equal to 67.946 x 103 Mg 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.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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