Land-use changes in a small watershed in the Mediterranean landscape (SE Spain): environmental implications of a shift towards subtropical crops

Duran Zuazo, V.H.; Rodriguez Pleguezuelo, C.R.; Francia Martinez, J.R.; Martin Peinado, F.J.; Graaff, J. de


Resource use and watershed management have become an increasingly important issue, stressing the need to find appropriate management approaches for improving agricultural landscapes. We analysed land-use changes from 1978 to 2007 in a representative watershed of Almu├▒├ęcar (SE Spain). In 1978 the watershed consisted of 64.2% almond, 24.7% fallow land, 6.7% vineyard, 1.9% olive and 2.5% other uses. In 2007 much of the traditional orchards had disappeared, leaving only 17% almond and 0.6% vineyard. Not less than 29.8% had become shrubland and another 24.6% abandoned cropland. However, much of the land is now under subtropical crops: 19.2% avocado (Persea americana M.), 3.9% mango (Mangifera indica L.), 2.4% loquat (Eriobotrya japonica L.) and 1.1% cherimoya (Annona cherimola M.). This intensively irrigated agriculture with subtropical trees on terraces could exacerbate watershed degradation and could become a core problem with implications for sustainable resource use. The abandonment of traditional terraces with rainfed crops has led to the re-emergence of spontaneous native vegetation, promoting a denser plant cover and subsequent decrease in erosion. Therefore, highlighting the need for implementing sustainable conservation practices is crucial as part of future agricultural support.