Natural Hazards

Antrophogenic hazard

Anthropogenic changes of the landscape and natural hazards

Anthropogenic changes of the landscape and natural hazards

In this post, I had the pleasure to interview Paolo Tarolli, a very active member of the EGU community and a brilliant scientist. He is Professor in Water Resources Management and Integrated Watershed Management, and head of Earth Surface Processes and Society research group at the Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy). He has a PhD in Environmental Watershed Management and Geomatics and has worked as academic staff at the Università degli Studi di Padova since 2011. He was Visiting Professor at several universities (e.g. China University of Geosciences, Guangzhou University, National Cheng Kung University, EPFL), and Adjunct Professor at University of Georgia and Università Politecnica delle Marche.

Paolo Tarolli is also very active in science dissemination, being Executive Editor of the open access journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS) and Science Officer of the Natural Hazards division (NH6 remote sensing & hazards) at the European Geosciences Union (EGU). He is also a member of the European Geosciences Union, the American Geophysical Union, and the British Society for Geomorphology.

His fields of expertise include digital terrain analysis, earth surface processes analysis, natural hazards, geomorphology, hydro-geomorphology, lidar, structure-from-motion photogrammetry; new research directions include the analysis of topographic signatures of human activities from local to regional scale.

1) Humans are having an increasing impact on the Earth, and the term Anthropocene is now commonly used to define the period we are living in to highlight the strong influence of human beings. How are humans shaping the Earth?


Conceptual diagram of long-term changes in sociocultural systems, cultural inheritances, societal scale, energy use and anthropogenic geomorphic features (source: Tarolli et al. 2019, Progress in Physical Geography, doi:10.1177/0309133318825284)

Human societies have been reshaping the geomorphology of landscapes for thousands of years, producing anthropogenic geomorphic features ranging from earthworks and ditches to settlements, agricultural terraces, ports, roads, canals, airports and constructed wetlands that have distinct characteristics compared with landforms produced by natural processes. Human societies are transforming the geomorphology of landscapes at increasing rates and scales across the globe. These anthropogenic patterns, directly and indirectly, alter Earth surface processes while reflecting the sociocultural conditions of the societies that produced them. In my recent paper published in Progress in Physical Geography[1] (a research collaboration with some colleagues with a different background, e.g. geomorphology, ecology and archaeology), we introduced the concept of “sociocultural fingerprints”. We connected the novel Earth system processes provided by the emergence and evolution of human societies with their continuous shaping and reshaping of Earth’s geomorphology from the deep past into the foreseeable future. We underlined the opportunity to recognize the geomorphic signatures of sociocultural fingerprints across Earth’s land surface using high-resolution remote sensing[2] combined with a theoretical framework that integrates the natural and sociocultural forces that have and will shape the landscapes of the Anthropocene. Doing so, the long-term dynamics of anthropogenic landscapes can be more effectively investigated and understood, towards more sustainable management of the Earth system.

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Bridging the gap between science and decision makers – a new tool for nuclear emergencies affecting food and agriculture

Bridging the gap between science and decision makers – a new tool for nuclear emergencies affecting food and agriculture

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has developed an online system to assist in improving the response capabilities of authorities in the event of an emergency caused by natural hazards. This tool provides a clear overview of radioactive contamination of crops and agricultural lands through improved data management and visualization, it also assists in decision support processes by suggesting management actions to decision makers. In this interview, we have the pleasure to introduce Ms Amelia Lee Zhi Yi, working at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture to speak about DSS4NAFA, said system that will be extensively discussed hereafter.

1)  Nuclear Emergency Response (NER) for food and agriculture – why is that important and what does that entail?

In the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency, the response should be performed swiftly in the interest of human health. After ensuring the well-being of the population, it is necessary to prioritize the assessment of possible radioactive contamination of crops and agricultural lands to avoid ingestion of radioactivity.

Proper data management, data visualization and risk communication are essential for efficient response to a nuclear emergency. Factors that should be considered for such response include support for sampling and laboratory analysis, optimal allocation of manpower and analytical instruments, and integrated communication between stakeholders.

To make well-informed decisions on for instance planting and food restrictions, food safety authorities need to have a good understanding of the radiological conditions after a fallout event. This is accomplished through the collection of environmental samples such as soil and plants, and food products that are then analysed using consistent methods in qualified laboratories. Further, these data should be displayed in an intuitive manner so that authorities will be able to interpret the data under stressful, time-bound conditions. Finally, to reduce confusion and clearly communicate decisions made to the public, standardized communication protocols of the decisions made by policymakers need to be implemented. [Read More]