Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 37, Issue 1–3, pp 59–78 | Cite as

A hierarchical approach for desertification assessment

  • Ger Bergkamp


Environmental systems are complex and multi-scaled open systems. To understand land degradation, one has to consider the interactions between landscape patterns and environmental processes at different scales. Patterns and processes in the landscape are perceived to be organized in nested hierarchical structures. To study land degradation in this context, a coupled top-bottom/bottom-up approach was developed. The top-bottom landscape analysis is aimed at identifying landscape systems at different scales. The bottom-up analysis focuses on system dynamics at finer scales. Applied in a study in central Spain, the approach is aimed at understanding the functional differences between three types of degraded seminatural slopes at different scales. Six levels of organization were distinguished: ped-level, terracette-level, hummock-level, slope part-level, slope level, and watershed level. Properties that characterize these levels were selected for different disciplines. The bottom-up analysis focused on water movement at different spatial scales. Successfully applying this approach revealed the importance for land degradation of the close linkage between spatial patterns and hydrological processes at different spatial scales. Identifying constraining and dynamic indicators related to water conservation at different scales can be useful for assessing desertification.


Spatial Scale Water Conservation Water Movement Fine Scale Functional Difference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ger Bergkamp
    • 1
  1. 1.Landscape and Environmental Research GroupUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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