Abstract

The objective of this work was to classify and map the areas environmentally sensitive to desertification in the Mediterranean island of Crete. Sensitivity to desertification was estimated with a modification of the MEDALUS Environmentally Sensitive Area Index (ESAI) approach, using 15 quantitative parameters divided into four main quality indices: climate, vegetation, soils and management quality. The ESAI methodology was modified to include two additional parameters related to soil quality (water erosion and soil organic matter). According to the results, 37% of the island's area is characterized as critically sensitive to desertification. This percentage varies significantly across the island, with the western part having the least critically sensitive areas, and the eastern part the most critically sensitive. The results of this study also indicate that critically sensitive areas are found in the eastern side of the island mainly due to human-related factors and climatic conditions. It was concluded that the proposed methodology is a valuable tool for regional-scale assessment of areas environmentally sensitive to desertification in Mediterranean environments.

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