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Alpine gullies system evolution: erosion drivers and control factors. Two examples from the western Italian Alps
- Bollati, I.M., Masseroli, A., Mortara, G., Pelfini, M., Trombino, L.
- Geomorphology 2019 v.327 pp. 248-263
- altitude, bedrock, climate, compression wood, latitude, morphometry, ravines, resin canals, roots, topographic slope, trees, vegetation, water erosion, Alps region, Italy
- Denudation processes affecting mountain slopes may vary according to different factors (e.g., lithology and structural setting of bedrock, climate, relief features), which may be very diverse at the local scale. Gully complex systems, characterised by morphological features similar to those developing in other climate contexts (i.e., pseudo-badlands) are also becoming common at higher altitudes and latitudes. The selected study cases of Gran Gorgia (Susa Valley) and Saint Nicolas (Aosta Valley), in the Western Italian Alps, are sites of geomorphological interest as they are specifically relevant for their scientific features. The aims of this work are (i) reconstructing the morphometric evolution of gully systems and vegetation colonisation time by means of multitemporal spatial analysis on surface morphological changes under water erosion; (ii) reconstructing in detail, through dendrogeomorphological analysis, the progressive spatial surface denudation and changes in erosion rates, by analysing trees and exposed roots and using different indicators (i.e., compression wood, traumatic resin ducts); (iii) obtaining data on successive aggradation/degradation episodes along slopes surrounding such hotspots through geopedological investigations; and (iv) identifying which control factors exert a predominant role on denudation patterns in such contexts. Multidisciplinary analyses regarding the study sites allowed for detailing of erosional history of the studied slopes detecting the prevailing drivers of their evolution. According to the results and considering the common climate and bedrock conditions, the structural background seems to have more influence on slope evolution at the Saint Nicolas site, while superficial geomorphic processes seem to be more relevant at the Gran Gorgia site. Because the sites have already been recognised as part of geoheritage by local authorities, the data obtained in the present research on their genesis, evolution, and local drivers affecting the rates of denudation (i.e., scientific relevance of the site) suggests that description of the sites for dissemination purposes should include links to the entire slope history.