Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
23 Mar 2010
 | 23 Mar 2010

Hydrogeomorphic processes and torrent control works on a large alluvial fan in the eastern Italian Alps

L. Marchi, M. Cavalli, and V. D'Agostino

Abstract. Alluvial fans are often present at the outlet of small drainage basins in alpine valleys; their formation is due to sediment transport associated with flash floods and debris flows. Alluvial fans are preferred sites for human settlements and are frequently crossed by transport routes. In order to reduce the risk for economic activities located on or near the fan and prevent loss of lives due to floods and debris flows, torrent control works have been extensively carried out on many alpine alluvial fans. Hazard management on alluvial fans in alpine regions is dependent upon reliable procedures to evaluate variations in the frequency and severity of hydrogeomorphic processes and the long-term performance of the torrent training works. An integrated approach to the analysis of hydrogeomorphic processes and their interactions with torrent control works has been applied to a large alluvial fan in the southern Carnic Alps (northeastern Italy). Study methods encompass field observations, interpretation of aerial photographs, analysis of historical documents, and numerical modelling of debris flows. The overall performance of control works implemented in the early decades of 20th century was satisfactory, and a reduction of hazardous events was recognised from features observed in the field and in aerial photographs, as well as from the analysis of historical records. The 2-D simulation of debris flows confirms these findings, indicating that debris flow deposition would not affect urban areas or main roads, even in the case of a high-magnitude event. Present issues in the management of the studied alluvial fan are representative of situations frequently found in the European Alps and deal with the need for maintenance of the control structures and the pressures for land use changes aimed at the economic exploitation of the fan surface.