by Ludovica Schiaroli
Together with the team of the University of Genoa we will find out how to redesign the future of terraced landscapes and of the Cinque Terre thanks to the Stonewallsforlife project.
“Today the goal was to identify suitable sites to place the multiparameter stations. They will monitor the soil and drystone walls measuring the response of the terraced territory to extreme rainfall events. Due to climate change, these circumstances could increase in the coming years.”
This is explained by Andrea Cevasco, professor of applied geology at DISTAV (Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences) of the University of Genoa. Within the Stonewallsforlife project, together with researchers Giacomo Pepe, Andrea Mandarino and Andrea Vigo, he has the task of identifying the best management practices in order to make the terraced environment more resistant and resilient to climate change.
After the study, the project comes to life
The removal of spontaneous vegetation in the first lot allowed to have an overall view of the state of the terraces so as to understand the interventions to be carried out. “The previous months were necessary to outline the geological and geomorphological characteristics of the project area – says Andrea Vigo – as well as to carry out a detailed mapping of the terraces and to analyze their state of conservation and the processes of instability.
A magnifying glass on the terraces
The four multi-parameter stations will function as a sort of magnifying glass which will help to understand how the wall and soil respond to rainfall events.
“They will be allocated in areas characterized by different conditions of use and state of the wall masonry – explains Andrea Mandarino – because they will have to register how the different conditions of the terraces affect the response of the latter to rainfall events. As for the technique of reconstruction of collapsed walls – which may be traditional or with some innovative technical device – we will consider which will provide the best response in terms of mitigation of geo-hydrological risk and potential effects of climate change.”
“All this does not happen by chance – continues Prof. Cevasco – but it is the natural continuation of the studies that, together with several colleagues, we started after the flood of 2011. They pointed out that in the strips abandoned for a few years, landslides and instabilities in general were larger than in still cultivated areas; the extension then decreases in strips abandoned for longer, for example for several decades”.
Information comes from the subsoil
“All information will come from special sensors inserted in the ground which will continuously register various parameters at different depths, as well as inside the wall” – Giacomo Pepe tells us this adding that the presence of a weather station will serve to detect and monitor rainfall data in real time.
Moreover, the stations will be settled in such a way as to allow the ordinary agricultural activity and at the same time acquire “interesting” data in view of the implementation of the project.
By analyzing the collected data, it will be possible to understand how the land behaves. The soil is “a dynamic system, meaning that during the year it responds differently depending on the meteoclimatic situation”.
At least two years waiting for the first results
In a short while the stations will be placed, however the first results will be available at least in a couple of winters. This is the timeframe required to collect enough comparable data which will help to understand how the wall-soil system responds to the occurrence of rainfall and to assess the effects of different construction techniques or management practices. “The data will be useful for the future, for replication sites – concludes Prof. Cevasco – besides, this is a unique opportunity and since it is not usual to get the chance to carry out such in-depth studies, we hope they will provide valuable data for the future management of the terraced environment.”
As we walk through the terraces, we can’t help but notice the burnt earth under our feet, it hasn’t rained for months and the concern is great especially in the steepest parts, where a heavier rain could easily wash away the soil downstream. Looking out from these terraces and seeing just below the roofs of the town of Manarola makes you understand the importance of a project like Stonewallsforlife.