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The Northern Shift in the Geographical Distribution of the Olive Tree – A Bioclimatic Indicator?

Luca Salvati, Adele Saterian, Andrea Colantoni, Rosanna Di Bartolomei, Luigi Perini, Marco Zitti


Decreasing rainfall, climate aridity and severe droughts have become, in the last years, global issues due to their economic, social, and ecological implications. Empirical evidence suggest that the Mediterranean basin is an hotspot for climate variations. This study discusses the use of the olive tree, a typical Mediterranean crop, as a bio-climatic indicator. The distribution of the olive tree showed a well-defined latitude gradient progressively reducing in density towards north. Due to climate variations, however, there are evidence on a shift towards north in the geographical range of this crop. The present study analyzes the spatial distribution of the olive cultivated area in Italy with a special focus on northern Italy. Results indicate that olive cultivated area increased in northern Italy especially in lowland and middle upland areas while decreasing in both central and southern Italy. The highest increase was observed during 1992-2000 after recurrent winter drought and local warming. The article discusses the implications of the illustrated range shift and a possible landscape scenario for the coming future.


Landscape, Climate variations, Agriculture, northern Italy.

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