Agriculture in Hilly and Mountainous Landscapes: Threats, Monitoring and Sustainable Management

Elsevier, Geography and Sustainability, Volume 1, Issue 1, March 2020, Pages 70-76
Authors: 
Paolo Tarolli and Eugenio Straffelini

Agricultural landscapes cultivated in hilly and mountainous areas, often with terracing practice, could represent for some regions historical heritages and cultural ecosystem services. For this reason, they deserve to be protected. The complex morphology that characterises them, however, makes these areas intrinsically susceptible to hydrogeological instability, such as soil loss due to surface erosion or more severe mass movements. We can identify three major critical factors for such landscapes. The first is related to the socio-economic evolution of contemporary civilization, that increased the land abandonment of several rural regions, leading therefore to a lack of maintenance. A second element is the unsustainable agricultural practices, such as excessive heavy-mechanization that cause soil compaction thus accelerating degradation. Finally, the climate change forcing, with the increasing of the extreme rainfall. In this complex framework, it is necessary to find innovative solutions for the mitigation of hydrogeological risk and to respond in a well-prepared way to the possible future critical scenarios. Therefore, the use of sustainable agricultural practices, which allow the production of quality agricultural products in perfect harmony with the surrounding environment, becomes crucial. Suitable solutions must respond to the criterion of multidisciplinary, where the various stakeholders collaborate by offering their specific knowledge in a shared intention of problem-solving. The discipline of geography may become a valuable asset in this framework. In particular, thanks to the recent technological advances in the topographic survey (e.g. innovative remote sensing techniques such as drones and airborne laser scanning), it is possible to exploit digital terrain analysis to synthesize key information for decision-makers, in order to plan sustainable interventions. Moreover, thanks to the high-resolution and accuracy offered by digital topography and the advanced morphometric algorithms, it is possible to tackle the problem of hydrogeological risk from a unique and privileged perspective: that of prevention.