Last scientific publication of the project!

Critical range of soil organic carbon in southern Europe lands under desertification risk

Eleonora Grilli, Sílvia C.P. Carvalho, Tommaso Chiti, Elio Coppola, Rosaria D'Ascoli, Tommaso La Mantia, Rossana Marzaioli, Micòl Mastrocicco, Fernando Pulido, Flora Angela Rutigliano, Paola Quatrini, Simona Castaldi. 

Journal of EnvironmentalManagement 287, 2021, 



Soil quality is fundamental for ecosystem long term functionality, productivity and resilience to current climatic changes. Despite its importance, soil is lost and degraded at dramatic rates worldwide. In Europe, the Mediterranean areas are a hotspot for soil erosion and land degradation due to a combination of climatic conditions, soils, geomorphology and anthropic pressure. Soil organic carbon (SOC) is considered a key indicator of soil quality as it relates to other fundamental soil functions supporting crucial ecosystem services. In the present study, the functional relationships among SOC and other important soil properties were investigated in the topsoil of 38 sites under different land cover and management, distributed over three Mediterranean regions under strong desertification risk, with the final aim to define critical SOC ranges for fast loss of important soil functionalities. The study sites belonged to private and public landowners seeking to adopt sustainable land management practices to support ecosystem sustainability and productivity of their land. Data showed a very clear relationship between SOC concentrations and the other analyzed soil properties: total nitrogen, bulk density, cation exchange capacity, available water capacity, microbial biomass, C fractions associated to particulate organic matter and to the mineral soil component and indirectly with net N mineralization. Below 20 g SOC kg- 1, additional changes of SOC concentrations resulted in a steep variation of all the analyzed soil indicators, an order of magnitude higher than the changes occurring between 50 and 100 g SOC kg- 1 and 3–4 times the changes observed at 20–50 g SOC kg- 1. About half of the study sites showed average SOC concentration of the topsoil centimetres <20 g SOC kg- 1. For these areas the level of SOC might hence be considered critical and immediate and effective recovery management plans are needed to avoid complete land degradation in the next future.


Topic related scientific publications of the Desert-Adapt team


Sparacio I., La Mantia T. 2018. New data on Protaetia (potosia) opaca (Coleoptera Cetoniidae) from Pantelleria island (Sicilian channel, Italy) Naturalista sicil., S. IV, XLII (2), pp. 331-336.


Desert-Adapt presentations at Conferences

Alessandrino L., Grilli E., Mastrocicco M., Castaldi S. Estimation of the avoided soil loss due to the application of the Desert-Adapt measures. XXIX Congresso della Società Italiana di Ecologia “Capitale Naturale: la Gestione per la Conservazione”. 10-12 September, 2019, Ferrara (Italy).

Branquinho C., Príncipe A., Serafim J., Rocha B., Köbel M., Matos P., Pinho P., A. Nunes (2019). As florestas e os sistemas agro-silvo-pastoris nas zonas semi-áridas – desafios e oportunidades. 36ª Ovibeja, 24-28 Abril, Beja, Portugal.

Carvalho Sílvia (2018). Climate Change in the Regional Context. Introductory workshopP – Pioneers into Practice, Climate-KIC, 18th May, Lisbon, Portugal.

Castaldi S., Bijl M. , Alduina R. , Bastidas M., da Silveira B. R. , Catania V. , Coppola E. , Grilli E. , Herguido E. , La Mantia T. , Lo Verde G. , Mastrocicco M. , Miranda J. , Pulido F., Pérez-Izquierdo C. , Quatrini P. , Rutigliano F. A.. Adapting agroforestry to future climate scenarios: The LIFE project Desert-Adapt. 4th World Congress on Agroforestry, 2019. Montpellier: CIRAD, INRA, World Agroforestry

da Silveira Bueno Rafael,Rogério Cangarato, Camillo Cusimano, Tommaso La Mantia, Rocco Lo Duca , Gabriella Lo Verde, Bruno Massa, Fernando Pulido. Bird abundance and richness in ten Mediterranean agroforestry systems. 4th World Congress on Agroforestry, 2019. Montpellier: CIRAD, INRA, World Agroforestry.

Grilli E., M. Bastidas, M. Bijl, S. Carvalho, E. Coppola, T. La Mantia, C.A.R. Machado, M. Mastrocicco, Marzaioli R., F. Pulido, M.J. Roxo, F.A. Rutigliano, P. Quatrini, A. Sarmento, S. Castaldi. “Drivers of soil quality in agro-ecosystems and managed forested lands of Mediterranean areas under increasing climatic risk”. First Joint Meeting SISS-SIPe-SICA on Soil and Plant System Sciences (SPSS 2019) Natural and Human-induced Impacts on the Critical Zone and Food Production. 23-26 September 2019, Bari, Italy.

Grilli E., Coppola E., la mantia T., Mastrocicco M., Pulido F., Rutigliano F.A., Quatrini P., Castaldi S. TERRAenVISION 2019, Working towards the sustainable development goals. 2-7 September, Barcelona, Spain. Oral presentation “Soil quality characterization of Mediterranean areas under desertification risk for the implementation of management schemes aimed at Land Degradation Neutrality”.

Mastrocicco Micol, Eleonora Grilli, Simona Castaldi “Innovative and sustainable solutions for agro-food systems: desertadapt and multifoot projects. International Scientific Meeting ”. Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Terms of the Republic of Serbia Strategic Goals Realization within the Danube Region - science and practice in the service of agriculture. Belgrade, National Bank of Serbia December, 12-13th 2019.

 Quatrini Paola, Valentina Catania, Rosa Alduina, Rafael Da Silveira Bueno, Simona Castaldi and Eleonora Grilli. Key features of bacterial communities in Southern Europe soils vulnerable to desertification. XXXIII° Congress SIMGBM - Microbiology 2019 - Firenze, 19 - 22 June 2019.

 Quatrini P., V. Catania, R. Alduina, R. Da Silveira Bueno, M. Milazzo, S. Castaldi and E. Grilli. Bacterial diversity in soils vulnerable to desertification. “5th International Conference on Microbial Diversity” Catania Sept 25-27, 2019.

Rutigliano F.A., Grilli E., Marzaioli R., Mastrocicco M., Coppola E., Castaldi S. “Loss of soil organic carbon in areas at desertification risk of Southern Europe”. XXIX Congresso della Società Italiana di Ecologia “Capitale Naturale: la Gestione per la Conservazione”. 10-12 September, 2019, Ferrara (Italy).

Sofia Serena, Valentina Catania, Rafael da Silveira Bueno, Tommaso La Mantia, Paola Quatrini.XII Interazione fra funghi micorrizici e piante pioniere in ambienti aridi e degradati: il caso di Lampedusa. Congress of the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology (SISEF), 12 – 15 november 2019.

Lo Verde Gabriella, Camillo Cusimano, Tommaso La Mantia, Rafael Da Silveira Bueno, Paola Quatrini. Arthropod diversity in soils vulnerable to desertification. the 9th ESSC (European Society for Soil Conservation) International Congress on the 26 – 28 September, 2019, Agricultural University of Tirana. Tirana, Albania.