It can take more than 1000 years to form a centimeter of topsoil.

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The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) is the global union of soil scientists. The objectives of the IUSS are to promote all branches of soil science, and to support all soil scientists across the world in the pursuit of their activities. This website provides information for IUSS members and those interested in soil science.

7th International Meeting on Soils with Mediterranean Type of Climate

Preserving the Mediterranean Soils in the Third Millennium

The 7th International Meeting on Soils with Mediterranean Type of Climate was held in Valenzano, Bari, Italy, from 23-28 September 2001. The Meeting was sponsored by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) through the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, the International Union of Soil Sciences, the Italian Society of Soil Science, and by the European Soil Bureau of the European Commission. About 130 participants from 24 countries attended the Meeting. They mainly represented countries from the Mediterranean region, Balkan Peninsula and southern Europe, however attending there were also participants from as far as Brazil and Iran.

The tradition that was established back in 1946 in the first Meeting on Red Mediterranean Soils held in France continued its right track. As Professor Fiorenzo Mancini (Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the 7th IMSMTC) pointed out in his remarks during the Meeting in Bari, the first Meeting held in France, took place less than one year after the 2nd World War ended. This was a sign of hope to re-start the study of these soils and to bring the soil science community back to work.

The Meeting in Bari, followed six successful previous ones held in France (1946), Spain (1966), Turkey (1993), Greece (1995), Bulgaria (1997), and again Spain in 1999. It is interesting to notice that the number of participants in these types of Meetings has increased considerably. Given the sensitive international situation when the Meeting in Bari was held, we should be grateful to all of them who attended. They represent well-known figures in the soil science community as well as a large number of less known people that came to share their knowledge and experience in the study and management of these fragile Mediterranean eco-systems.

Fifty-four oral presentations and forty-five poster papers were presented in ten sessions. They range from soil quality indicators in the Mediterranean environments, soil pollution and environmental protection, soil degradation and conservation, soil use and management, soil genesis, classification, and cartography, soil fertility and plant nutrition, and organic farming. A special session was devoted to the actions taken in the Apulia region for improving land use planning and management, (Bari is the capital of Apulia).

Two mid meeting tours were organised in the surroundings of Bari. One headed south towards the area of Alberobello (an UNESCO site) typical, among others, for the conic roofs of the houses, where red soils (Rhodoxeralfs or Chromic Luvisols) and Haploxerolls or Phaeozems were observed.

Calcareous hard limestones dominate the geology of the area. Major forms of land use are olives, vineyards, and fruit trees. This type of land use is mainly influenced by the shallow soils of the area. Other forms of cultivation include horticulture and forage crops.

The second tour visited the area of Tavoliere delle Puglie were large parts are covered by Vertisols, which are formed mainly on Pliocene clays mixed with conglomerates. The Tavoliere region is the largest durum wheat producing area in Italy. Many of the famous Italian pastas originate from the products of this region.

The outcomes of the 7th IMSMTC could be summarised as follows:

  • High quality presentations were made;
  • Challenging and thought provoking discussion took place;
  • This is the first Meeting bringing scientists of different disciplines together;
  • However, interdisciplinary studies should be encouraged;
  • More basic research is still needed, especially in the area of soil genesis;
  • Large number of papers dealt with application aspects (management, land degradation, fertilisation);
  • More papers were presented in applied aspects compared to the previous Meetings;
  • More papers were presented from the Southern Mediterranean countries compared to the previous Meetings;
  • It was strongly suggested that the voice of soil scientists should reach the politicians and decision-makers;
  • More emphasis is needed on public awareness;
  • Sustainable land management is still far from being a reality in the Mediterranean and elsewhere;
  • Transfer and dissemination of knowledge and technology among the scientists should be encouraged.

All the participants agreed that the whole Mediterranean is facing desertification, scarcity of water resources, urbanisation, salinisation and alkalinity, soil erosion, overgrazing, loss of biodiversity, and massive landslides. It is widely accepted among concerned soil scientists, that soil science could play a crucial role in reducing these negative effects.

The Mediterranean is one of the most important birthplaces of civilisation with a historical tradition of thousands of years. It reflects an ancient history in the cultivation of crops and tradition in agriculture, but shows also many past mistakes in mismanagement and misuse of natural resources. Ancient civilisations including Arabs, Illirians, Greeks, and Romans, cleared large areas of forests damaging thus the natural ecosystem to an irreversible status.

It is unfortunate to notice that there are still many examples throughout the Region and beyond, which clearly show that land degradation is accelerating, fertile lands are lost to urbanisation and tourism industry, salinisation is increasing, and erosion is continuously reducing the land resource base. Human-induced land degradation plays a great role in this scenario.

It is therefore the time to come out and make a difference. Many of the participants pointed out that we should not stand in the same position as we were thirty years ago, by just exposing the damages of land degradation. The time has come that we should change and convince first ourselves, and then the politicians and decision-makers that conservation of soil and land resources is at stake and we have to ensure the survival and well being of ever growing future generations.

The International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies, through its Mediterranean Agronomic Institute in Bari, in collaboration with the European Soil Bureau of the European Commission and INRA in France is taking immediate steps in this direction. Following a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Bari in 1999 by 12 countries of the region the Institute is helping in establishing and strengthening a network of Euro-Mediterranean Soil Information. Some countries already have submitted to INRA their soil maps at 1:1 Million scale and work is going on to complete this task before the Congress of IUSS in Thailand in 2002. The Institute in Bari is co-ordinating the establishment of a thematic network to combat land degradation in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean region following a participatory approach that will include farming communities, scientists and decision makers from almost all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

The 8th IMSMTC will be held in Marrakech, Morocco in September 2003. We say good bye to those who came to Bari and to those that could not come. Hopefully in Morocco we will be able to demonstrate that we are able to make a difference and to expose some good examples of soil conservatio, sustainable agriculture and societal development.

Dr. Pandi Zdruli and Dr. Pasquale Steduto
CIHEAM-Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari
Via Ceglie 9, 70010 Valenzano, (BA), Italy