Desertification is an important environmental and socio-economic problem that affects much of the world’s drylands, resulting in a significant loss of biological and economic productivity. Responding to desertification by improving the efficiency of land and resource management represents a crucial step towards social welfare in drylands. While science has made noticeable progress in aiding our understanding of the drivers and processes of desertification, the evaluation of the practices to combat desertification, the exchange of experience and knowledge, and the incorporation of social dimensions in the solutions often remain limited, compromising the adoption of best practices in prevention and restoration efforts. PRACTICE is an EC-FP7 global initiative that gathers scientists and stakeholders from among the most affected regions of the world to combine local and scientific knowledge to help address the desertification challenge. The NRD, Desertification Research Group of the University of Sassari is a partner of the project. To pursue its goal, PRACTICE developed and applied integrated evaluation protocols to assess the effectiveness of prevention and restoration practices: the protocols integrate the multiple dimensions of land degradation based on the unifying conceptual framework provided by the analysis of the desertification impacts on ecosystem goods and services and on human well-being, across different spatial scales (by integrating field and remote sensing approaches). The evaluation tools implemented by Practice are participatory. They integrate the human and biophysical dimensions of desertification, involving stakeholders at all levels, including farmers and ranchers, natural resource managers, scientists, and policy makers. PRACTICE involves research teams and stakeholder platforms in 12 countries: Chile, China, Greece, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Portugal, Spain, and South Africa. The project seeks to create an international network of long-term monitoring sites aimed at supporting future synthetic analysis, improving the accessibility and use of long-term data, and facilitating the exchange of knowledge. Two study sites are specifically considered by the present contribution, which also considers the wider project outcome: the Pula reforestation site (Pinus communis – Pinus halepensis) in Sardinia, Italy, and the Ouled Dlim fodder shrub plantations (Atriplex nummularia) in Morocco, which are under the scientific responsibility of the NRD. In each study area, representative plots were selected in restoration sites, as well as in “non-intervention” reference sites, to perform comparative analyses. The integrated protocol was implemented to define the suitable assessment indicators, along with multiple evaluation criteria based on ecosystem goods and services, by involving the stakeholders. The Landscape Function Analysis (LFA) was taken as the reference method to study the effects of the restoration actions on the soils and on the ecosystem functions The results obtained show that (i) restoration actions impact in different ways (both positive and negative) the provision of ecosystems goods and services; (ii) the overall impact is, in some cases, controversial, also in terms of social perception; and that (iii) multi-criteria analysis can provide an effective tool to describe and trade-off the effects of the restoration actions.
The PRACTICE project: Towards an integrated assessment of prevention and restoration actions to combat desertification / Zucca, Claudio; D’Angelo, Massimo; Campus, Sergio Francesco; Congiu, Maria Luisa; Cucca, Carlo; Dessena, Leonarda; Fava, Francesco; Fiori, V.; Madrau, Salvatore; Mortaji, M.; Mulas, Maurizio; Musinu, Silvia; Pulighe, Giuseppe; Scotti, Roberto; Sporer, Fabian; Vagnetti, Cynthia. - (2012), pp. 94-94.