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Land fragmentation index for drip-irrigated field systems in the Mediterranean: A case study from Ricote (Murcia, SE Spain)

Heider, Katharina, Rodriguez Lopez, Juan Miguel, García Avilés, José María, Balbo, Andrea L.
Agricultural systems 2018 v.166 pp. 48-56
case studies, emissions, geographic information systems, governance, habitat fragmentation, microirrigation, rural areas, small farms, small-scale farming, sustainable development, transmission systems, Mediterranean region, Spain
Land fragmentation is widespread in traditional field systems of the Mediterranean region. A typical case for high fragmented properties is the Valley of Ricote. It is dominated by smallholder agriculture. To promote smart sustainable development in rural areas it is important to address the specific needs of these small agricultural producers; especially considering that agriculture is the most important consumer of water worldwide and that the great majority of farms are small production units extending over <2 ha. Indeed, high land fragmentation, resulting from traditional land inheritance and transmission systems, may cause loss of water and productive land, entropic governance and superfluous emissions. In particular, drip-irrigated systems suffer from higher costs for irrigation due to high land fragmentation.In this study, we develop a Fragmentation Index for Drip Irrigation and Distance Assessment (FIDIDA) using Geographic Information Systems. FIDIDA quantifies farms considering their transaction costs. Based on these costs, FIDIDA brings together mean plot size, degree of separation and degree of dispersion of land parcels on farm level. The index can be used to compare the individual fragmentation of farms or the land fragmentation between different study areas. The definition of FIDIDA aims at supporting the management of reasonable land fragmentation thresholds in the context of communities made of traditional small farms, while suggesting possible pathways for a gradual inversion of high land fragmentation trends through agreed plot fusion where necessary.