Numerical Modelling and Economics of Agricultural Land Degradation in the Maltese Islands

Authors: Daniel Sultana

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Keywords: Malta, agriculture, rUSLE soil erosion, GIS land degradation modelling, economics of land degradation, land use management


Issue: Xjenza Online Vol. 4 Iss. 1 - July 2016

The study applies a new GIS-based numerical modelling approach to calculate the economic burden agricultural land owners su er through soil erosion land degradation. Numerically modelled soil erosion volumes in Maltese agricultural areas were estimated at 766 278m3=yr costing 7:98Me=yr to replace. The model calculates that the average owner incurs 1170e=0:01km2=yr on soil replacement and soil improvement requirements. With average yearly economic revenue of 1720e=0:01km2=yr, this cost bene t imbalance may force agricultural land owners to not replace eroded soils. Over time, as a result of soil erosion, an increasingly large proportion of agricultural land may no longer suitable for agricultural purposes. Over 50 years, 1:53km2 (0.5% of Maltese area) of agricultural land may be depleted of soil, incurring an average national agricultural revenue loss of 0:26Me per year. Soil erosion rates, and associated economic implications, may be mitigated with cost effective management practices. Two such practices include conservation tillage, which o ers various economic advantages to farmers, and the restoration of breaches in slope-facing rubble walls in areas subject to soil erosion. The latter may require an investment of 11:94Me at the National scale or e1,600 by the average agricultural land owner. Both measures contribute towards the sustainable use of Maltese agricultural areas and maintaining key associated ecosystems services.

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