Natural and anthropogenic hazards in karst areas of Albania
Abstract. In Albania, about one quarter of the country is occupied by outcroppings of soluble rocks; thus, karst represents an important and typical natural environment. Today karst areas are seriously threatened by a number of hazards, of both natural and anthropogenic origin. Many problems are related to agricultural practices: the use of heavy machinery, ever-increasing in recent years, results at many sites in destruction of the original karst landscapes. Use of pesticides and herbicides, in addition, causes the loss of karst ecosystems of great biological relevance, as has been observed in the Dumre district, where about 80 lakes of karst origin are present in the evaporites of Permian-Triassic age. Agricultural practice performed on slopes with medium to high gradient is a further factor which greatly predispose the slopes to erosion. The cave heritage of Albania (estimated so far in about 1000 caves) is at risk because of the uncontrolled quarrying activities which determine the total or partial destruction of karst caves, including many of naturalistic, archaeological and speleological interest. Many caves have also become sites of illegal disposal of solid and liquid wastes, which causes pollution of the karst ecosystems and of the aquifer therein present, with heavy negative consequences on the quality of water. Even though most of the cases here mentioned are related to anthropogenic activities, the natural hazards, such as subsidence phenomena, floods, and the development of sinkholes, have not to be disregarded.