Department of Agriculture Extension and Education, Bu-Ali Sina University, Hamedan, Iran
The main purpose of the present study was to assess the ecological capability of agricultural soils using geographic information system (GIS). This research was conducted during 2014 in Hamedan Province, Iran. A cross-sectional study was conducted mapping the 10 factors of soil characteristics (texture, depth, erosion, and aggregation, percentage of slope, direction of slope, height, soil salinity, pH, and fertility) that affect ecological capability. The maps were overlaid in ArcGIS software. The weighting of factors was performed using the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) technique in Expert Choice Software. Preference for the options (layers) was specified and an ecological capability map of agricultural lands in the province was created. Among the factors considered, the pH of the soil weighing 0.313 was the most important factor and soil salinity with 0.228 was the second most important factor influencing ecological capability. In general, growth-oriented agricultural development policies and improper management of farms in recent years has reduced the ecological capability of agricultural lands. The results showed that the highest and lowest ecological capability of soil in agricultural lands in the area was 6.2% and 0.07%, respectively. Development of sustainable agriculture practices, such as low and no-tillage practices, reduction in the use of chemical pesticides, and use of green fertilizers to maintain and enhance the ecological capability of agricultural lands and resources, are recommended. In the policy-making process, sustainability and resource management must become a dominant notion and planning priority for practitioners.