The Archipelago Elba
by Prof. Sandro Moretti & Filippo Catani
Elba / Italy
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
This, again, supports desertification
phenomena which already threaten 60% of Southern Europes countryside areasa
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
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.