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DOI 10.4461/GFDQ.2011.34.14


Channel adjustements and implications for river management and restoration

Pages 145-152


Most Italian rivers have experienced widespread channel adjustments over the last 100 years, mainly in response to a range of human activities. The aim of this paper is to show how knowledge of channel adjustment and reconstruction of evolutionary trajectory are or can be used in river management and restoration. The first part of the paper deals with channel adjustments and summarizes the results of recent studies carried out on twelve rivers in northern and central Italy. The second part illustrates three examples of application. The selected rivers have undergone almost the same processes in
terms of temporal trends. Initially, river channels underwent a long phase of narrowing (up to 80%) and incision (up to 8-10 m), which started at the end of the 19th century and was very intense from the 1950s to the 1980s. Then, over the last 15-20 years, channel widening and sedimentation, or bed-level stabilization, have become the dominant processes in most of the rivers, though channel narrowing is still ongoing in some reaches. Channel adjustments were mainly driven by human actions, but the role of large floods was also notable in some cases. Different human interventions have been identified as the causes of channel adjustments (sediment mining, channelization, dams, reforestation and torrent control
works). Such interventions have caused a dramatic alteration of the sediment regime, whereas effects on channel-forming discharges have seldom been observed.

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