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Desert-Adapt goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of an innovative adaption framework specifically designed to counter land degradation and desertification in Southern Europe. The land management strategy we define “Desertification Adaptation Model’’ (DAM)’’ is an integrated ecosystem approach which combines targets and measures of environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation with actions aimed to improve socio-economic conditions. 10 DAMS designed for site-specific conditions and opportunities, will be tested in three Mediterranean countries of E.U. under strong desertification risk: Italy, Spain and Portugal. The expected impact should improve ecosystem services and economic gains of the landowners. Replicating the results at large scale might help to sustain ecosystem services, revert land degradation and improve socioeconomic conditions of farmers and landowners in the tested regions.



SUN – Università degli Studi della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” (IT)
FSG – Forestry Service Group BV (NL)
ADPM – Associaçao de Defesa do Patrimonio de Mértola (PT)
UNIPA – Università degli Studi di Palermo (IT)
TerraDro – TerraSIG Lda. (PT)
FCSH – Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Serpa – Município de Serpa (PT)
L1. LAMP -Municipality of Lampedusa e Linosa (IT)
L3. SAFT – Societa Agricola Franco Turco (IT)
L5. Hoyos – Ayuntamiento de Hoyos (SP)
L6. VdFres – Ayuntamiento de Valverde del Fresno (SP)
L7. Gam – Viveros Forestalis La Dehesa SL (SP)
L9. Madeira – Sociedade Agrícola Vargas Madeira, Lda (PT)

Description of the project:

Land degradation and erosion are of the most urgent environmental, economic and social problem in Southern Mediterranean EU countries. They are caused by the combination of  inappropriate land management and climate extremes and are expected to worsen to a great extent in the coming years as a consequence of Climate Change, leading to massive desertification in many areas of Southern Spain, Portugal, Italy. Loss of land fertility and productivity is closely linked to economic impoverishment and social crisis.  

The project propose to apply an integrate model of land management defined Desertification Adaptation Model (DAM). The DAM is based on 3 pillars (functions):

1) Economic adaptation: long term land protection needs to be economically profitable, hence the most appropriate areas of a land property are assigned to resilient agro-productions, which means, diversifying (at least 8 different income sources), adapt (using only local species suitable to climate extremes), sustain and restore (apply the best know measures to avoid land degradation), avoid intensive agriculture.

 2) Environmental adaptation: the land use plan must always be a mosaic where crops are alternated to natural areas where biodiversity is restored and nurtured to provide key ecosystem services for the whole area (wildlife corridors, niches for pollinators, niches for natural enemies, seed banks). The mosaic, in combination with sustainable agriculture practices, aims at increasing the soil matter, protect from erosion, and sequester carbon.

3) Social adaptation: the DAM project should be inclusive for the local population so to rice awareness on the value of land, provide a feeling of collective efficacy and common responsibility. Locals might work part time on DAM development on a volunteer basis in exchange of some of the produced income for example. Or participate to organize and lead guided ecotourism in the properties.

Each landowner has to define the right balance of functions to be applied in his own land, but the final outcome should be a mosaic where no piece of land is abandoned or left without an appropriate function.

For the specific objectives of the project the expected outcomes in the area of study in SP, PT and IT are:

  • Establish and test DAM on 1000 hectares of EU land under desertification risk
  • Safeguard and Improve ecological services, biodiversity, soil quality, plant cover, reduced erosion.
  • Climate Change mitigation, a net carbon removal of 1 ton CO2-e per hectare.
  • Improve socioeconomic benefits, with at least 8 viable income sources selected; an increase of income per hectar; employment and IRR on the mid long term
  • Self-supporting company for farmer-promotion of a new brand of products or ecoservices from fragile areas under land degradation risk obtained with “sustainable land management”.
  • 10 project partners trained as promoters, each successful in knowledge transfer to 10 more farmers

Expect Impacts


Show the effectiveness of a sustainable and integrated framework of land management that can at the same time preserve land integrity and quality, generate income and support social inclusion.

Make the farmer less dependent on CAP funding as the sole solution to low productivity in areas under desertification risk

Diffuse the idea that only adaptive sustainable land management can allow on the long term the farmers to continue to use their land in a productive way.


To bring the attention to correct land policies and measures to be financed in areas under degradation and desertification risks

To propose a full framework of land management based on the DAM principles, rather than single measures to support local economies, often in contrast with best practices to reach land neutrality

To contribute to the EU on-going discussion on Desertification policies and best practices to be organically implemented at EU level, which at the moment is lacking


Coordinator Prof. Simona Castaldi Università degli studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli (IT) (

Local project coordinator by region

Italy (Sicily) Paola Quatrini, Università di Palermo,

Portugal (Alentejo)  Associaçao de Defesa do Patrimonio de Mértola

Spain (Extremadura) Prof. Ferdinando Pulido, Universidad De Extremadura

Additional comments:

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