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 Underground fungi detected from space
04.05.2016 | Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

nachricht How much does groundwater contribute to sea level rise?
03.05.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nuclear Pores Captured on Film

Using an ultra fast-scanning atomic force microscope, a team of researchers from the University of Basel has filmed “living” nuclear pore complexes at work for the first time. Nuclear pores are molecular machines that control the traffic entering or exiting the cell nucleus. In their article published in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers explain how the passage of unwanted molecules is prevented by rapidly moving molecular “tentacles” inside the pore.

Using high-speed AFM, Roderick Lim, Argovia Professor at the Biozentrum and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute of the University of Basel, has not only directly...

Im Focus: 2+1 is Not Always 3 - In the microworld unity is not always strength

If a person pushes a broken-down car alone, there is a certain effect. If another person helps, the result is the sum of their efforts. If two micro-particles are pushing another microparticle, however, the resulting effect may not necessarily be the sum their efforts. A recent study published in Nature Communications, measured this odd effect that scientists call “many body.”

In the microscopic world, where the modern miniaturized machines at the new frontiers of technology operate, as long as we are in the presence of two...

Im Focus: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Regulator of death receptor discovered

06.05.2016 | Life Sciences

A study shows how the brain switches into memory mode

06.05.2016 | Health and Medicine

New fabrication and thermo-optical tuning of whispering gallery microlasers

04.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>