, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 657-676
Date: 03 Feb 2012

Mapping the susceptibility to sinkholes in coastal areas, based on stratigraphy, geomorphology and geophysics

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Sinkholes and land subsidence are among the main coastal geologic hazards. Their occurrence poses a serious threat to the man-made environment, due to the increasing density of population, pipelines and other infrastructures along the coasts, and to the catastrophic nature of the phenomena, which generally occur without any premonitory signs. To assess the potential danger from sinkholes along the coast, it is important to identify and monitor the main factors contributing to the process. This article reports a methodology based on sequential stratigraphic, hydrogeological and geophysical investigations to draw up a susceptibility map of sinkholes in coastal areas. The town of Casalabate situated in the Apulia region (southern Italy), affected by a long history of sinkhole phenomena, is here presented as an example. The approach proposed is based on sequential stratigraphical, geomorphological and geophysical surveys to identify the mechanisms of sinkhole formation and to provide a zonation of the areas in which further sinkhole phenomena may likely occur. Interpretation of the ground penetration radar and electrical tomography profiles has enabled us to identify the potentially most unstable sectors, significantly improving the assessment of the sinkhole susceptibility in the area. The proposed methodology is suitable to be exported in other coastal areas where limestone bedrock is not directly exposed at the surface, but covered by a variable thickness of recent deposits.