Nature - Culture - Society

The Archipelago Elba

by Prof. Sandro Moretti & Filippo Catani

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Elba / Italy

1. Introduction
2. The Study Area: Elba Island
3. Geography and Morphology
4. Geology
5. Climate


The Mediterranean region with its long history of population by man today is one of the regions to be most affected by human influence world-wide. One of the consequences is land degradation along with changes in geomorphodynamics, of the vegetation and of the characteristic species diversity.

Land degradation is one of the main factors for edaphic and climatic aridity in the Mediterranean region and leads to decreasing soil productivity.

This, again, supports desertification phenomena which already threaten 60% of Southern Europe’s countryside areasa (EC, 1994).

With the Genoa-Declaration in 1985, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) enlarged the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) by adding the obligation to avoid and fight fires, soil erosion and desertification in the Mediterranean Region as central items.

During the last several decades a progressive migration of labour from primary to tertiary sector could be observed in the Mediterranean countries (coastal regions). A strong migration from agriculture towards tourism-related activity occurred, caused by the scarcity of suitable land, of capitals and by the marginality of the regions of origin and by the high income and activity.

This economic change in the objects of labour mainly among the rural population led to a profound change in the use of agricultural land. This land use change has favoured an increment in the susceptibility for the degradation of the land and the vegetation in these regions, instead of weakening it.

The socio-structural side effects caused the accelerated development of the villages placed on the coast and namely near the few sandy beaches present on the islands and in coastal plains, beaches formed also by the sediments eroded from the formerly cultivated plots.

The research work on the Islands of Naxos, Syros, Lesbos, Elba and Mallorca is in line with some equivalent studies referring to areas struck by changes in land use geomorphodynamic processes and land degradation in Greek, Spain and Italy.

The reduction of farmed land inside small islands causes an initial increase in soil erosion, resulting in beach expansion and consequently of the tourist resort.

A feed-back process can be assumed: Tourist development - abandonment of agricultural land - soil erosion - beach propagation -enhanced capacity for tourist activity.

Obviously, other social and economic processes overlapped to this to make tourism the primary economic activity of many Mediterranean islands and coastal regions.

1. Introduction
2. The Study Area: Elba Island
3. Geography and Morphology
4. Geology
5. Climate


dot_clr.gif (46 Byte) Regions Mediterranean Naxos Elba Mallorca

© 1999 TRIANET, Program of the European Union Socrates-Comenius
Last update on 08.07.1999 by Markus Zapke-Gründemann