Keywords: soil quality, local communities, population dynamics, socioeconomic structure, exploratory analysis, municipalities, Italy, soil degradation, human settlements, job market, consumption patterns, rural development, land use, agriculture, income, education, labour market, soil conservation, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land management
Soil quality, local communities and the territorial context: Exploring a latent nexus?
Soil degradation is increasingly threatening Mediterranean–type ecosystems and the interplay between natural and anthropogenic factors affects (and is in turn influenced by) soil quality. Rural areas with poor soils are characterised by a socioeconomic profile featuring poverty, unemployment and subsidence agriculture. These factors may trigger, in the long term, a downward spiral leading to soil resource depletion. The present study explores on a municipal scale the spatial relationship between an index of soil quality and potential degradation and 121 supplementary indicators (population structure and dynamics, human settlements, job market and education, income and consumption patterns, agriculture and rural development, environment and territory). Results indicate that the socioeconomic profile of high– and low–vulnerability municipalities diverged for specific indicators dealing with agriculture, income, education and labour market. An in–depth knowledge of the socioeconomic context may inform effective policies of soil conservation and sustainable land management on a local scale.