Main Research Projects

An holistic approach to a wise management of Tuscany coast: a challenge to make conscious decisions along the land-sea interface.

The preservation of the coast is a major challenge that any municipality, whose economy revolves on beach resorts and/or port-related activities, is facing in the new millennium. In the past decades the coastal erosion issue was often DSC00596 low addressed with the realization of hard protection structures (e.g. groynes and breakwaters) to counteract the erosion processes, sometimes without taking into full account the consequences on the adjacent sectors of the coast. Artificial replenishments were also frequently used to restore suffering beaches: even though they were deemed as a softer approach relative to groynes and breakwaters, beach fills were still intended to fix a local problem. Therefore, the concept that needs to permeate any layer, from the decision-makers to the stakeholders and finally to the scientists, is to start thinking of the coastal system at a larger scale, from the drainage basin Strumentazione Sensori lowto the sea along an imaginary cross-shore transect, and also in terms of physiographic unit along the coast. A wise and effective coastal management depends on a strong and influential governance that might be able to cross the administrative limits, thus allowing to consider the erosion issue in terms of littoral cells and no more locally. The first step is to welcome a paradigm shift: the evolution of the coastal environment is not just affected by the processes acting along the shoreline, but also on the drainage basin and along river courses. The transversal scale (the well-known “source-to-sink” approach) needs to be taken into full consideration because a paramount question still without clear answer is how much sediment is delivered by rivers to the coast; and as a consequence, how much of this sediment is further displaced offshore to a depth where no process is able to bring it back to the beach. READ MORE...

GEOMED Project

Geoarchaeology of Mediterranean deltaic environnements
A comparative approach including: Turia (Spain), Birgi (Italy), Danube (Romania), Akko (Israel) and Kuban (Russia)
>>Project leader C. Morhange

This project is aimed at quantitatively characterizing the relationships that existed between the ancient societies and their environments, at different temporal and spatial scales along the deltaic coast of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The planned research work is based on a multidisciplinary approach including: archaeological, historical, geographical, geo-morphological and bio-sedimentological data as well as modeling and 3D reconstruction of archeological sites. The study of the relationships between ancient societies and their coastal environment has long been fragmentary. Our methodology has been used and developed for over a decade. The project presented here is thus in line with this methodology which integrates sedimentary archives from coastal areas with the archaeological context. It will attempt to describe the forcing agents governing the historical development of deltaic civilizations and the geomorphology of their environments during the Holocene period. Comparative analysis will allow us to cross examine the economic, social and food supply strategies of these societies in relation to their degree of technical development and hence bring to the fore their adaptability in particularly mobile and changing environments.
This research will focus on: (i) a study of sedimentary archives collected in archaeological contexts, from ~6000 years BC onwards; and (ii) an archaeological and geo-archaeological analysis integrating the source-to-sink watershed areas.

The lagoonal harbour of Portus Pisanus

The lagoonal harbour of Portus Pisanus (N Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy):  a long history of human adaptation to changing coastline

During the last millennia human and natural processes have become increasingly intertwined, especially in the Mediterranean coastal and alluvial pippoplains where major urban and trade centres developed since protohistoric times. The construction of ports represents one of the human activities that have mostly contributed to modify coastal environments, inducing a variety of hydrodynamic and hydrochemical changes especially since Roman times (Marriner et al., 2014).

Exceptions in this common manner to plan harbours have been recognised along the N Tyrrhenian coast, where no high-impact defense works are explicitly documented by either historical sources or archaeological excavations for three main harbours developed during Etruscan-Roman times (IV-I century BC): Portus Lunae (Bini et al., 2012), Portus Pisanus and Vada Volterrana.

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