, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 831-846
Date: 02 Mar 2005

A century of land subsidence in Ravenna, Italy

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Over the last century the Ravenna area has been affected by a widespread land subsidence process of both natural and anthropogenic origin which has become a matter of increasingly great concern. Land settlement, initially of the order of a few mm/year, dramatically increased up to 110 mm/year after World War II primarily due to groundwater pumping and, subordinately, gas production from a number of deep on-shore and off-shore reservoirs. Spirit leveling was carried out in the area of the Ravenna Municipality by various authorities and agencies ever since the end of the nineteenth century using an increasingly refined network of benchmarks. The available information, spanning the time interval from 1897 to 2002, has been implemented and homogenized into a Geographic Information System (GIS). Measurements processed by kriging provide the pattern of the subsidence rates over the municipal territory during eight sub-periods. The reliability of data processing is discussed for both magnitude and areal distribution of the occurrence, showing a pronounced nonlinear behavior in time, as related to the major responsible factors. Cumulative land subsidence approaches almost 1 m over more than one third of the municipality area including the city and a significant fraction of the coastland, with peaks larger than 1.5 m over a 10 km2 zone located between the historical center and the coastline. Most recent records show that at present the mainland appears to be substantially stable, whereas some coastal areas are still subsiding at a rate of about 10 mm/year with a significant threat to the environment and the infrastructures as well, although to a lesser extent than in the past decades.