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Assessing the Vulnerability to Land Degradation of (Not Only) Rural Landscapes Using the ESAI Index

  • Cudlín, Ondřej1
  • Pechanec, Vilém2
  • Prokopová, Marcela1
  • Cudlín, Pavel1
  • 1 Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Lipová 9 , (Czechia)
  • 2 Palacký University Olomouc, 17. listopadu 50 , (Czechia)
Published Article
Journal of Landscape Ecology
De Gruyter Open Sp. z o.o.
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2021
DOI: 10.2478/jlecol-2021-0020
De Gruyter


Determining the vulnerability of land to degradation is a crucial factor enabling policy makers to take targeted actions. The main aim of this work was to determine vulnerability to land degradation using the Environmentally Sensitive Area Index (ESAI) in the territory of 206 municipalities with extended power (MEPs), regions (NUTS 3) and in the Czech Republic (CR). The other two aims were found out i) whether land degradation is affected by land use characterized by landscape types according to Löw et al. (2006) and ii) whether land degradation occurred in larger territorial units (regions) or scattered across the CR (in individual isolated MEPs). The Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) method assesses the vulnerability of an area to land degradation using a composite index containing indicators divided into four thematic groups: human activity pressure and management intensity, vegetation cover and vegetation quality, climate, and soil in the assessed area. The ESAI index is expressed on a semi-quantitative scale ranging from the lowest levels of degradation (land not affected and land potentially affected by degradation) to the highest level of degradation (land at high risk). Most MEPs with a share of more than 70 % of their area were in the category "moderately critical areas" at risk of land degradation were located in the Central Bohemia region (15 MEPs) and in the South Moravia region (14 MEPs). For the whole territory of the Czech Republic, 51 % of the territory was found to be critically vulnerable to land degradation, and 38 % of the republic area was vulnerable to land degradation. Vulnerability to land degradation was strongly influenced by the landscape type. Almost all MEPs with a predominantly agricultural landscapes were critically vulnerable to land degradation, as were about half of the MEPs in the forest-agricultural and urban landscapes and only a few MEPs in the forest landscapes. Given the selected indicators, the MEP seems to be the appropriate smallest administrative unit to assess vulnerability to land degradation in the Czech Republic. The map of individual ESAI values can be viewed free of charge online at We are currently preparing a proposal for appropriate measures to prevent and reduce land degradation throughout the territory of the Czech Republic, and our proposals are coordinated with representatives of the MEPs and regions.

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