Impact of Farmland Abandonment on Water Resources and Soil Conservation in Citrus Plantations in Eastern Spain

Artemi Cerdà, Oren Ackermann, Enric Terol, Jesús Rodrigo-Comino
2019 Water  
Due to the reduction in the prices of oranges on the market and social changes such as the ageing of the population, traditional orange plantation abandonment in the Mediterranean is taking place. Previous research on land abandonment impact on soil and water resources has focused on rainfed agriculture abandonment, but there is no research on irrigated land abandonment. In the Valencia Region—the largest producer of oranges in Europe—abandonment is resulting in a quick vegetation recovery and
more » ... ation recovery and changes in soil properties, and then in water erosion. Therefore, we performed rainfall simulation experiments (0.28 m2; 38.8 mm h−1) to determine the soil losses in naveline orange plantations with different ages of abandonment (1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 years of abandonment) which will allow for an understanding of the temporal changes in soil and water losses after abandonment. Moreover, these results were also compared with an active plantation (0). The results show that the soils of the active orange plantations have higher runoff discharges and higher erosion rates due to the use of herbicides than the plots after abandonment. Once the soil is abandoned for one year, the plant recovery reaches 33% of the cover and the erosion rate drops one order of magnitude. This is related to the delay in the runoff generation and the increase in infiltration rates. After 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 years, the soil reduced bulk density, increase in organic matter, plant cover, and soil erosion rates were found negligible. We conclude that the abandonment of orange plantations reduces soil and water losses and can serve as a nature-based solution to restore the soil services, goods, and resources. The reduction in the soil losses was exponential (from 607.4 g m−2 in the active plot to 7.1 g m−2 in the 10-year abandoned one) but the water losses were linear (from 77.2 in active plantations till 12.8% in the 10-year abandoned ones).
doi:10.3390/w11040824 fatcat:n2zopdsbwneclegeycf7enk4fa