Articles | Volume 11, issue 11
Research article
15 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 15 Nov 2011

Human activity and damaging landslides and floods on Madeira Island

D. Baioni

Abstract. Over the last few decades, the island of Madeira has become an important offshore tourism and business center, with rapid economic and demographic development that has caused changes to the landscape due to human activity. In Madeira's recent history, there has been an increase over time in the frequency of occurrence of damaging landslide and flood events. As a result, the costs of restoration work due to damage caused by landslide and flood events have become a larger and larger component of Madeira's annual budget. Landslides and floods in Madeira deserve particular attention because they represent the most serious hazard to human life, to property, and to the natural environment and its important heritage value.

The work reported on in this paper involved the analysis of historical data regarding damaging landslide and flood events on Madeira (in particular from 1941 to 1991) together with data on geological characteristics, topographic features, and climate, and from field observations. This analysis showed that the main factor triggering the occurrence of damaging landslide and flood events is rainfall, but that the increase in the number of damaging events recorded on Madeira Island, especially in recent times, seems to be related mostly to human activity, specifically to economic development and population growth, rather than to natural factors.