Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Where nothing grows anymore

10.03.2014

Geographers of the University of Jena are looking into the typical landscape of Tuscany

Vast fields of sunflowers, sprawling pine trees and slim cypresses, as well as vineyards as far as the eye can see – these are typical memories of Tuscany for all those who have been there.


The region known as ‘Crete Senesi’ between Florence and Grosseto. The small hills are typically characterized by erosion.

Photo: Beate Michalzik/FSU

By contrast, Professor Dr. Beate Michalzik from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena and her colleagues are interested in the more barren aspects of the region in Central Italy: In a study the Jena geographers analyzed the condition of the soil in the region known as ‘Crete Senesi’ between Florence and Grosseto, whose hills are typically characterized by erosion – for the moment at least, because the so-called badlands of Tuscany are acutely endangered.

“Erosion is threatening the many small peaks known as biancane’ due to their whitish color. They are marked by a bleak, strongly declining south side and a less declining north side, overgrown by herbs”, Prof. Michalzik explains. Every year one to two centimeters of the loose bare ground on the south side of the slope are being eaten away by wind and weather.

But why, asked the chair of Soil Science, is there a protective blanket of sage brush, orchard grass, wild rye and curry plant only on one side of the hill and not on the other one? Michalzik and two former students from Jena tried to literally unearth the answer to this question. As Peggy Bierbaß, Michael Wündsch and Beate Michalzik write in the science magazine ‘Catena‘: this typically Tuscan landscape is the result of an intense interplay of the condition of the soil, the vegetation and the land-use (DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2013.08.003).

In the Val d’Orcia, about 30 kilometers south of Siena, the Jena students and their supervisors took 12 samples of the soil of a biancana hill within the context of fieldwork. In the laboratory they analyzed their chemical, physical and hydrological qualities and discovered that the concentration of sodium in the soil is crucial for its stability.

“In the barren part of the hills the concentration of sodium is distinctly higher than on the vegetated side,” Michael Wündsch explains the central finding. The high concentration of sodium lowers the coagulation of the individual layers of clay and therefore they are more easily affected by the rain. The result: less stability and more erosion.

An additional reason can be found in the vegetation itself. “In places where something once grew, organic material finds its way into the ground and serves as a kind of intercellular cement and protects the ground from erosion,” Peggy Bierbaß says. Moreover, the vegetation leads to a better overall wetting mesh, which adds to the greening and also protects the ground.

A targeted greening of the barren surfaces of the biancane hills could possibly stabilize them. However, Beate Michalzik explains, this wouldn’t stop the gradual disappearance of this landscape either, as can be seen by the growing agricultural use of the region.

“In the last decades bigger and bigger stretches of land have been used for wheat growing, which takes away the unique character of this landscape,” states Michalzik. According to today’s estimates, the badlands of Tuscany will have disappeared completely in 35 to 40 years.

Original Publication:
Bierbaß P et al. The impact of vegetation on the stability of dispersive material forming biancane badlands in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Central Italy, Catena 113 (2014) 260–266, DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2013.08.003

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Beate Michalzik, Michael Wündsch
Institute of Geography
Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
Löbdergraben 32, 07743 Jena
Germany
Phone: ++49 3641 948820, ++49 3641 948807
Email: beate.michalzik[at]uni-jena.de, michael.wuendsch[at]uni-jena.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uni-jena.de

Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Erosion Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Soil landscape memories surfaces

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Volcanoes get quiet before they erupt!
24.06.2016 | Carnegie Institution for Science

nachricht New technique settles old debate on highest peaks in US Arctic
24.06.2016 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First experimental quantum simulation of particle physics phenomena

Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...

Im Focus: Is There Life On Mars?

Survivalist back from Space - 18 months on the outer skin of the ISS

A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...

Im Focus: CWRU physicists deploy magnetic vortex to control electron spin

Potential technology for quantum computing, keener sensors

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed a way to swiftly and precisely control electron spins at room temperature.

Im Focus: Physicists measured something new in the radioactive decay of neutrons

The experiment inspired theorists; future ones could reveal new physics

A physics experiment performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has enhanced scientists' understanding of how free neutrons decay...

Im Focus: Discovery of gold nanocluster 'double' hints at other shape changing particles

New analysis approach brings two unique atomic structures into focus

Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ERES 2016: The largest conference in the European real estate industry

09.06.2016 | Event News

Networking 4.0: International Laser Technology Congress AKL’16 Shows New Ways of Cooperations

24.05.2016 | Event News

Challenges of rural labor markets

20.05.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool'

24.06.2016 | Materials Sciences

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler'

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune

24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>