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Impacts of past and future land changes on landslides in southern Italy

Abstract

Land use and land cover (LULC), as well as their geographical and temporal variations, affect landslide occurrence and the related risk, in ways that are difficult to determine. Here, we propose a method for the regional analysis of variations in landslide frequency and distribution in response to observed and projected LULC changes. The method is quantitative and reproducible. We test it in Calabria, southern Italy, where a catalogue of 7037 landslides occurred between 1921 and 2010 is available. First, we defined empirical relationships linking the observed LULC variations to landslide occurrence. We found that, in the period 1921–1965, the majority of the landslides occurred in forests and grassland areas, while, in the period 1966–2010, the landslide density became higher in grassland areas, lower in arable lands and remained about constant in the forests. We consider this an evidence of the positive effect of agricultural practices and land management in reducing landslide occurrence. We noticed that both the landslide occurrence and the distribution of the vulnerable elements changed in the observation period. Then, we calculated the projected variations (to 2050) in landslide occurrence related to 32 scenarios of LULC changes. Our projections reveal a modest increase in landslide occurrence in all scenarios, in the range from 0.9 to 3.2%, with an average increase of 2%. Considering all scenarios, we expect an increase in the number of landslides due to LULC variations in 291 municipalities in Calabria (71%), with 4 municipalities where the increase is expected to exceed 50%. We maintain that the observed and the projected variations in the occurrence of landslides in Calabria are related to changes in natural (i.e. the number and distribution of the triggering events) and environmental and societal (i.e. the number and the distribution of the exposed elements) components.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Luca Pisano for fruitful discussions and to Paola Giostrella for having helped us find the CNR-TCI land use map of Calabria. The manuscript greatly benefited from the constructive comments and suggestions of the editor and the two anonymous reviewers, definitely.

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Correspondence to Stefano Luigi Gariano.

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Editor: Wolfgang Cramer

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Gariano, S.L., Petrucci, O., Rianna, G. et al. Impacts of past and future land changes on landslides in southern Italy. Reg Environ Change 18, 437–449 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1210-9

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Keywords

  • Land use
  • Land cover
  • Landslide risk
  • Environmental changes
  • Future projections
  • Regional scale
  • Calabria