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Keywords:

  • field inventory;
  • remote sensing;
  • GIS;
  • land degradation

Abstract

Grasslands are an important forage resource in Albania but irrational management systems during the recent communist period have led to their present state of degradation. This paper reports an investigation into the relative contribution of abiotic, biotic and management variables to this degradation, after implementing a national inventory using field-based and remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) techniques. A matrix of all these variables was produced in GIS and analysed statistically by applying principal component analysis, cluster analysis and correlation analysis. Grasslands occurred mainly in mountainous areas, mostly above 800 m elevation; 0·44 were on south-facing slopes and 0·79 on steep (>15%) slopes, and predominantly (0·59) overlying limestone and on shallow soils (0·51) with loose surface stones (0·84). Most were grazed during the summer period, predominantly (0·94) managed in a communal way, and many (0·23) were overgrazed. Multivariate analysis showed that no single abiotic variable was important for the low vegetative cover. It is concluded that degradation of grasslands in Albania can be attributed to the interaction of unfavourable abiotic conditions and irrational grazing management practices.