Estimating soil degradation in montane grasslands of North-eastern Italian Alps (Italy).

Research paper by Loris L Torresani, Jianshuang J Wu, Roberta R Masin, Mauro M Penasa, Paolo P Tarolli

Indexed on: 16 Apr '20Published on: 30 Jun '19Published in: Heliyon


Grasslands cover a large portion of the terrestrial ecosystems, and are vital for biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and livestock husbandry. However, grasslands are degraded due to unreasonable management worldwide, i.e., soil erosion indirectly due to the damage of overgrazing on vegetation coverage and soil texture. An in-depth investigation is necessary to quantify soil erosion in alpine pastures, in order to manage grasslands more sustainably. In this work, we collected freely available satellite images and carried out intensive field surveys for the whole Autonomous Province of Trento (Northeastern Italian Alps) in 2016. The area (and volume) of soil erosions were then estimated and shown in maps. The average of the depths of soil erosion measured in field was used as a reference for estimating soil erosion of the entire study area. High-resolution DEMs difference in soil surface conditions was also computed in two representative areas between pre- and post-degradation to estimate the volume and the average depth of eroded soils. The degradation of soil in the study areas has been estimated in 144063 m and an estimated volume of 33610 ± 1800 m. Results indicate that our procedure can serve as a low-cost approach for a rapid estimation of soil erosion in mountain areas. Mapping soil erosion can improve the sustainability of grazing management system and reduce the risk of pastureland degradation at large spatial scales.