Sustainability, Vol. 14, Pages 162: Response of Potential Indicators of Soil Quality to Land-Use and Land-Cover Change under a Mediterranean Climate in the Region of Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar, Libya

Sustainability doi: 10.3390/su14010162

Jamal Suliman Alawamy
Siva K. Balasundram
Ahmad Husni Mohd. Hanif
Christopher Teh Boon Sung

Conversion of native lands into agricultural use, coupled with poor land management practices, generally leads to changes in soil properties. Understanding the undesirable effects of land-use and land-cover (LULC) changes on soil properties is essential when planning for sustainable land management. This study was conducted in Al Jabal Al Akhdar region, Libya, to assess the effects of land-use and land-cover changes on soil quality inferred by analyzing the relative changes in 17 chemical, physical, and biological soil properties in the upper layer (0–20 cm) of disturbed and undisturbed soil systems. Soil samples were collected from 180 sampling sites with 60 from each of the three types of LULC prevalent in the study area: natural Mediterranean forests (NMF), rainfed agriculture (RA), and irrigated crops (IC). The soil properties of the two agricultural land uses were compared with soil properties under an adjacent natural forest, which served as a control to assess changes in soil quality resulting from the cultivation of deforested land. The results indicate significant reductions in most soil quality indicators under rainfed agriculture as compared to native forest land. Under irrigated agriculture, there were significant changes (p ≤ 0.05) in most of the soil quality indicators, generally, indicating a significant reduction in soil quality, except for improvement of nitrogen and phosphorus levels due to frequent fertilizer application. Our data support the notion that changes in land use and land cover, in the absence of sustainable management measures, induce deterioration of soil properties and ultimately may lead to land degradation and productivity decline.

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