Flood risk mitigation and anthropogenic modifications of a coastal plain in southern Italy: combined effects over the past 150 years
Abstract. A study of the effects of human modification of a coastal plain mainly involving land reclamation and flood protection is proposed. The approach involves historical, geomorphological and hydrological data as a whole, taking into account the equilibrium of rivers, plains and coastal areas.
The test area, a telling example of profound economic and social transformation of a coastal plain, is the Piana di Sibari (Calabria, southern Italy), subject to major human modifications over the last 150 years. The study area, at most 300 m a.s.l., is 450 km2 wide and comprises 24 hydrographic basins.
The approach is based on the creation and analysis of four databases: 1) a historical series of geo-coded flood damage (DAMAGES database), concerning damaging floods which occurred over the past few centuries in the study area; 2) a geocoded series of protection works for land reclamation, protection from floods and improvement of soil stability in steep areas (WORKS database), gathered from the archives of the agencies that carried out the works, organized in a GIS-format; 3) a historical series of maximum flood discharges and extreme rainy events (HYMAX database) aimed at defining the trends of occurrence and the intensity of flooding; 4) a coastal line position and migration over time (COASTAL database), created using mainly literature data based on discontinuous data such as historical maps and images.
The work describes the complex succession of floods, protection and reclamation works, human transformation of the plain and major land use changes over the last two centuries in the test area. The new characteristics of the plain and its modifications, including major engineering works, land-use transformation and urbanisation, are illustrated. The damaging floods of the last 200 years, the modifications of runoff and flooding due to works built over the basins, hydrological data and the records concerning coastal modifications were used to create specific databases and a GIS in which these data can be analyzed by typology, location and extension.
The proposed approach highlights the high degree of correlation between drainage basin management, mainly in terms of increasing protection from natural hazards, and anthropogenic development in a broad coastal plain.