Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tuscany's 'badlands' acutely endangered

Date:
March 10, 2014
Source:
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Summary:
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. By contrast, a group of researchers is interested in the more barren aspects of the region in Central Italy: In a new study, the researchers 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.

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. 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.

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Peggy Bierbaß, Michael Wündsch, Beate Michalzik. The impact of vegetation on the stability of dispersive material forming biancane badlands in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, Central Italy. CATENA, 2014; 113: 260 DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2013.08.003

Cite This Page:

Friedrich Schiller University Jena. "Tuscany's 'badlands' acutely endangered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310090755.htm>.
Friedrich Schiller University Jena. (2014, March 10). Tuscany's 'badlands' acutely endangered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310090755.htm
Friedrich Schiller University Jena. "Tuscany's 'badlands' acutely endangered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310090755.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) — An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins