Terraced Landscapes: Land Abandonment, Soil Degradation, and Suitable Management

  • Paolo TarolliEmail author
  • Davide Rizzo
  • Gerardo Brancucci
Part of the Environmental History book series (ENVHIS, volume 9)


Agricultural terraces are among the most visible and extensive human signatures on different landscapes of the world. Terraces are generally built to retain soil and water, to reduce erosion, and to support irrigation. They reduce slope gradient and length, and facilitate the infiltration of water in areas with a moderate to low soil permeability by controlling the overland flow velocity. Thereby, they create positive effects on agricultural activities. Since ancient times, agricultural terraces have been built in different topographic conditions (e.g. coastal area, hilly, and steep slope mountain landscapes) and used for the cultivation of various crops (e.g. vineyards, fruit and olive groves, cereals, tea). Their management however arises relevant critical issues. Historical terraces are often of the bench type with stone walls and require adequate maintenance. Poorly designed and controlled terraces can lead to slope failures, often due to walls collapsing, increasing potential soil water erosion. Also, terraced areas are often served by agricultural roads that can profoundly influence surface hydrologic processes and erosion. Land abandonment and ageing of the local population, which affected several regions of the world during the last decades, are among the main reasons for the poor maintenance of terraced landscapes. As a consequence, a progressive increase of land degradation and loss of soil functions (e.g. food production, environmental interaction such as water storage, filtering and transformation, biological habitat, physical and cultural heritage) is observed. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the main critical issues of terraced landscapes, providing a few case studies, and a possible solution for proper long-term management.


Agricultural terraces Remote sensing Lidar Drainage systems Dry-stone walls Land abandonment Land degradation Landslides Soil erosion Landscape agronomy Topographic conditions Land management Anthropocene Italy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Tarolli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Davide Rizzo
    • 2
  • Gerardo Brancucci
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and ForestryUniversity of PadovaLegnaro (PD)Italy
  2. 2.UP 2018.C102 INTERACTUniLaSalleBeauvaisFrance
  3. 3.Department of Architecture and Design, Polytechnic SchoolUniversity of GenovaGenoaItaly

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