Land consumption increasing in Italy

Ispra data on land consumption and the impact it produces in our country

Over 21 hectares per day: this the land consumption in Italy recorded by Ispra in the first 10 months of 2022, with a growth of 10% compared to the previous year. A figure that goes in the opposite direction compared to the commitments undertaken by Italy to eliminate net land consumption by 2030. Worrying numbers, especially considering that maintaining the soil in natural conditions as much as possible is essential to guarantee a whole series of indispensable conditions for human beings: from the supply of raw materials and food products to the regulation of the climate, just to name a few. Despite being closely connected to priority functions for life, soil is a fragile resource often overlooked and exploited unconditionally by man, for example through incorrect agricultural and zootechnical practices, sudden changes in use, uncontrolled settlement dynamics, which limit or inhibit the natural functionality of the soil itself.

The trend of recent years

The report “Land consumption, territorial dynamics and ecosystem services” produced by the National System for Environmental Protection (SNPA), allows us to evaluate land consumption and the progressive degradation of the territory year after year. In particular, it emerges that the percentage of land consumed at a national level is constantly increasing from 2006 to 2022. If in the first year of the series considered it was equal to 6.73%, last year it reached 7.14% of the total territory , a percentage which corresponds to over 21,500 square km. Among the areas of the country most affected by land consumption are the Po Valley, especially Lombardy and Veneto, but also the route of the Via Emilia and Salento. At the level of urban areas, the most affected are Rome and Naples.

Natural and economic impact

One of the direct effects of land consumption or artificial cover of agricultural land, natural or semi-natural, mainly due to the construction of new buildings and infrastructures, the expansion of cities, densification, is theincrease in temperatures especially in urban centres with the phenomenon known as heat islands. In addition to climate issues, there are aspects linked to the loss of ecosystems, environmental fragility, and the fragmentation of the natural landscape. Furthermore, the constant consumption of land also has economic repercussions. In fact, permanently modified natural or agricultural soil will no longer be able to provide fundamental ecosystem services both for the population and for the natural balance, also causing an economic cost. The cost estimates due to the loss of ecosystem services developed by Ispra vary from a minimum of 7.8 billion euros to a maximum of 9.5 billion for each year from 2006 to 2022. Among the various items of estimated loss, the higher is associated with the regulation service of the hydrological regime or with the increase in surface runoff produced by land consumption.