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The Role of Lake Trasimeno (central Italy) in the History of Hydrology and Water Management

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Lake Trasimeno is located in central Italy, in an area where water management first began a few centuries BC. The paper outlines the hydrological history of the lake during the last millennia, and describes the various attempts by man to control the lake's water level. Lake Trasimeno is a closed lake, with no natural outlets; at present it has an average surface area of about 122 km 2 and a maximum depth of less than 6 meters. The lake level varies considerably and is strictly linked to meteorological and climatic conditions. The Etruscans or the Romans probably dug an underground outlet in order to control the water level, but the date and exact location of any such construction is unknown. During the Warm Medieval Period (roughly between 1000 and 1300 AD) the water level was rather low, but it rose again during the Little Ice Age (beginning around 1400 AD) and the lake flooded large areas used for agriculture. In order to control the high water a new outlet tunnel was built in about 1420, and in around 1480 the basin of the lake was reduced by diverting two streams toward the nearby Val di Chiana swamps. These works did not succeed in controlling the floods, and thus at the at the end of the 19th century a modern and efficient outlet tunnel was built. For this reason, the lake level is at least 2.5 meters lower today than the average level for the last four to five centuries. At present the climate in central Italy is changing again, with a decrease in the average rainfall and a slight increase in the average yearly temperature. Over the last sixty years this trend has caused a substantial lowering of the lake water level, which creates serious problems for the lake ecosystem and economy. In order to stabilize the level of the lake, in 1962 the streams diverted in 1480 were linked again to the lake, but the results have not been satisfactory: once again, as in the past, new actions are planned to cope with the new situation. The long history of the water management, projects and hydraulic works in the Trasimeno area has had a significant influence on the history of hydrology and hydraulics. Indeed, just as modern water science was being born, the problem of Lake Trasimeno initiated a centuries-long debate over the choice of the best actions to be carried out: for example, in about 1639 the hydrologist Benedetto Castelli gave the first description of a rain gauge in Europe while he was involved in the Lake Trasimeno problem.
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IWHA 3rd International Conference
The Role of Lake Trasimeno (central Italy) in the History of Hydrology and
Water Management
R. Burzigotti2, W. Dragoni1, C. Evangelisti1 & L. Gervasi2
1 – Earth Sciences Department & CIPLA – Perugia University (Italy)
2 – Province of Perugia (Italy)
Paper after the CD version of the conference’s proceedings, presented in the session:
The History of Water: Science and Technology
Abstract
Lake Trasimeno is located in central Italy, in an area where water management first began a
few centuries BC. The paper outlines the hydrological history of the lake during the last
millennia, and describes the various attempts by man to control the lake’s water level. Lake
Trasimeno is a closed lake, with no natural outlets; at present it has an average surface area
of about 122 km2 and a maximum depth of less than 6 meters. The lake level varies
considerably and is strictly linked to meteorological and climatic conditions. The Etruscans
or the Romans probably dug an underground outlet in order to control the water level, but the
date and exact location of any such construction is unknown. During the Warm Medieval
Period (roughly between 1000 and 1300 AD) the water level was rather low, but it rose again
during the Little Ice Age (beginning around 1400 AD) and the lake flooded large areas used
for agriculture.
In order to control the high water a new outlet tunnel was built in about 1420, and in around
1480 the basin of the lake was reduced by diverting two streams toward the nearby Val di
Chiana swamps. These works did not succeed in controlling the floods, and thus at the at the
end of the 19th century a modern and efficient outlet tunnel was built. For this reason, the
lake level is at least 2.5 meters lower today than the average level for the last four to five
centuries. At present the climate in central Italy is changing again, with a decrease in the
average rainfall and a slight increase in the average yearly temperature. Over the last sixty
years this trend has caused a substantial lowering of the lake water level, which creates
serious problems for the lake ecosystem and economy. In order to stabilize the level of the
lake, in 1962 the streams diverted in 1480 were linked again to the lake, but the results have
not been satisfactory: once again, as in the past, new actions are planned to cope with the
new situation. The long history of the water management, projects and hydraulic works in the
Trasimeno area has had a significant influence on the history of hydrology and hydraulics.
Indeed, just as modern water science was being born, the problem of Lake Trasimeno
initiated a centuries-long debate over the choice of the best actions to be carried out: for
example, in about 1639 the hydrologist Benedetto Castelli gave the first description of a rain
gauge in Europe while he was involved in the Lake Trasimeno problem.
Introduction
The hydrological characteristics of Lake Trasimeno make it a good case study on the
history of hydraulics and water management. The high variability of its levels, strictly related
to meteorological and climatic conditions, has caused floods and droughts over the centuries
and human intervention has been needed to regulate and control these probably since Etruscan
or Roman times. Starting from the Middle Ages, there is a fair amount of documentation on
works (or plans for works) regarding hydraulic interventions on Lake Trasimeno. The “Lake
Trasimeno problem,” at present consisting of a phase of very low levels, is still unsolved,
mainly because the hydraulic works done in the past are not efficient in the present climatic
situation. This paper reports a short synthesis of the hydrological history of Lake Trasimeno
during the last millennia, describing man’s various attempts up to the present to control the
lake level.
Physical and hydrological characteristics of Lake Trasimeno
Lake Trasimeno is situated about twenty kilometers west of Perugia in central Italy
(Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Location of Lake Trasimeno.
It is a closed lake, with no natural outlets; at present, it has an average surface area of
about 122 km2 and a maximum depth of less than 6 m. The catchment lies over a low
permeability substratum (turbidite, Upper Oligocene-Lower Miocene), covered, mainly in the
western sector, by Plio-Pleistocene and Holocene marine and fluvio-lacustrine deposits (Fig.
2). These deposits contain an unconfined aquifer which feeds the lake throughout the year.
ERRATA:
In the original version of this work (2003), Figure 2 was incorrect. In this version of
the work (January 2014) Figure 2 has been corrected.
Figure 2. Geological scheme of the Trasimeno basin. 1 - Turbidites (Oligocene - Miocene); 2 - Coastal
deposits (Pliocene); 3 - Fluvial and lacustrine alluvial deposits (Pleistocene); 4 - Recent and present
alluvial deposits; 5 - Natural catchment basin; 6 - Artificially-joined basins.
The surface catchment can be considered to coincide roughly with the hydrogeological basin. The
watershed is quite close to the lake shore (Fig. 2) and more than 1/3 of the rainfall falls directly on the
lake (Dragoni, 1982). Because of all these characteristics, the lake level varies considerably and is
strictly linked to local rainfall (Fig 3).
Figure 3. Lake levels measured on the 1st day of each month from January 1921 to October
2003. In May 1983 the outlet threshold was raised from 257.33 m above sea level to 257.5 m
above sea level.
The basic data regarding the physical and hydrological characteristics of Lake
Trasimeno are given in Table 1. All values are based on data from the 1963-2001 period.
Total area of the present basin, lake included (km2) 383.4
Average yearly temperature at the Monte del Lago station (°C) 13.9
Average yearly rainfall on the lake surface (mm) 723
Average yearly rainfall on the basin (mm) 749
Average level (m a.s.l.) 257.1
Minimum level (m a.s.l.) 256.05 (Sept. ’96)
Maximum level (m a.s.l.) 257.83 (Apr. ’79)
Maximum annual increase in level 1 (m) 0.78 (Feb ’76 - Jan ’77)
Maximum annual decrease in level 1 (m) -0.57 (Oct ’89 - Sept ’90)
Average lake surface area (km2) 121.5
Minimum lake surface area (km2) 118
Maximum lake surface area (km2) 124.2
Average volume of water stored in the lake (m3/106) 488.8
Maximum depth corresponding to the average level (m) 5.5
Average depth (average volume / average surface) 4.02
Table 1. Basic data regarding the physical and hydrological characteristics of Lake
Trasimeno (calculations done with the hydrologic year starting from September 1st).
1 - Value obtained after calculating with the hydrologic year starting from each
month.
251.57
252.57
253.57
254.57
255.57
256.57
257.57
258.57
Time (years)
Elevation (m a.s.l.)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Maximum depth (m)
Outlet threshold Lake deepest point Lake levels
1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Climatic variations and hydrological “history” of Lake Trasimeno
The history of the hydraulic works done in the Trasimeno basin is related to climatic
variations, which represent the main cause of variability in lake levels over the centuries.
Today it is well known that climate varies not only on a scale of million of years, but
also on a scale of thousands or hundreds of years, or even less (cf. for ex. Lamb, 1977; Pinna,
1996; Dragoni, 1996, 1998; IPCC 2001). As for central Italy, Table 2 gives a qualitative
reconstruction of climatic variations during the last 3000 years obtained using lake levels and
other proxy data (cf. Ortolani and Pagliuca, 1994; Cambi and Dragoni, 1998).
Time interval Lake level Climatic conditions
1400-1850 A.D. Generally high Cool / Wet
1000-1250 A.D. Low Warm
700-800 A.D. High Cool / Wet
50-500 A.D. Low Warm / Dry
100 B.C. - 50 A.D. High Transition
500-400 B.C. High Cool / Wet
1000-800 B.C. Low Warm / Dry
Table 2. Climatic changes in central Italy during the last 3000 years (after Cambi and
Dragoni, 1998).
For the entire Italian region it has been observed that cooler periods corresponded to wetter
conditions, while warmer periods corresponded to drier conditions (Table 2): this relationship
between temperature and rainfall holds true also at present. Indeed, several rainfall and
temperature data series indicate that since about the end of the last century there has been a
decrease in the yearly rainfall and a slight increase in the average yearly temperature in the
Western Mediterranean area and, therefore, in the Italian peninsula (cf. for ex. Piervitali et Al.,
1997a-b; Dragoni, 1998; Cambi et Al., 2000). Tables 3 and 4 show the results of the analysis
of some temperature and rainfall series carried out by Cambi and Dragoni (1998) for four
locations in central/southern Italy.
Station Time
interval
for T
Time
interval
for P
Average
yearly T
(°C)
Average
yearly P
(mm)
T trend gradient
(°C/year)
P trend gradient
(mm/year)
Perugia 1910-
1995
1910-
1995
13.2 869 +0.012 -2.46
Rome 1880-
1995
1880-
1995
16.0 785 +0.008 -2.67
Potenza 1926-
1996
1921-
1996
12.5 778 no trend -2.81
Palermo 1926-
1992
1936-
1992
18.4 597 no trend -1.83
Table 3. Trends of temperature and rainfall series according to Cambi and Dragoni, 1998. T
= temperature; P = rainfall.
Station Perugia Terni Rome Potenza
P/T gradient (mm/°C) -103 -123 -99 -74
Table 4. Relationship between average yearly temperature and yearly rainfall according to
Cambi and Dragoni, 1998. T = temperature; P = rainfall.
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
1600
11 12 13 14 15
Temperature (°C)
Rainfall (mm)
Gradient = -103 mm/°C
s.l. < 0.0002
PERUGIA
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1400
1600
14 15 16 17 18
Temperature (°C)
Rainfall (mm)
Gradient = -99 mm/year
s.l. < 0.07
ROME
Figure 4. Graphical representation of the data reported in tab. 4 for the Perugia and Rome
stations (after Cambi and Dragoni, 1998). S.l.. = significancy level.
Fig. 5 shows the levels of Lake Trasimeno from the Aeneolithic age to the present, obtained
independently by Gambini (2002) mainly on the basis of archaeological data; it can be
observed that the information reported in the graph is fairly consistent with that given in
Table 2.
Figure 5. Levels of Lake Trasimeno from the Aeneolithic age (after Gambini, 2002). A - End
of Aeneolithic age; B – Late/final Bronze age; C - Etruscan - Roman age; D – 11th-12th
cent. (first half); E - 14th cent. (second half); F - 15th-19th cent.; G - Present. The levels from
A to E have been reconstructed on the basis of archaeological findings. The datum referred to
A is still very uncertain.
Fig. 6 shows in greater detail the levels of Lake Trasimeno from 1400 to 1999
(Gambini, 2002).
Figure 6. Levels of Lake Trasimeno from 1400 to 1999 (modified after Gambini, 2002).
There appears to be some evidence that the Romans tried to regulate the levels of Lake
Trasimeno by means of an artificial outlet. There is no definite information on this outlet,
other than a mention by Strabo (ca A.D. 7-20) and the discovery of traces of ancient works
during the construction of a new outlet in the 19th century (cf. Castellani and Dragoni, 1981;
Dragoni, 1982; Gambini, 1995, 2002). More precisely, Strabo describes Lake Trasimeno as a
tributary of the Tiber river and this could refer to an artificial connection between the two
basins (as Lake Trasimeno is not a natural tributary of the Tiber), but it could easily be a
mistake by the Author (cf. Castellani and Dragoni, 1981). As for the archaeological traces,
during the digging of the modern outlet (see text below) some ruins were found, together with
digging tools and coins dating to the time of Emperor Claudius (the same Emperor who built
an outlet for Lake Fucino, cf. Menchini, 1900). However, more detailed investigations are
necessary to prove the building of a Roman outlet (Castellani and Dragoni, 1981).
The phase of low levels between about 1000 and 1100 A.D. coincides with what is
called the “Warm Medieval Period.” According to Cialini (1991), the low levels of that period
are indicated by old documents giving the names of villages which later disappeared
(presumably under water) and by the amount of wheat produced annually by farming land
which in the following centuries was flooded.
Between 1300 and 1400 there was a rising in the average level (Fig. 5 and 6) and
frequent flooding had devastating effects on the economy of the area. To mitigate the floods,
in 1420 Braccio Fortebraccio, lord of Perugia, decided to build an artificial outlet, known as
the “medieval outlet” (Fig.7.).
Figure 7. Situation of the Trasimeno basin between 1420 and about 1482. A -
Natural catchment; B - Swampy area (Chiana valley).
The medieval outlet is about 1050 m long, about 900 m of which underground (cf.
Castellani and Dragoni, 1981), and connects the Trasimeno basin with the Tiber river basin
(Fig.8. ).
Figure 8. Medieval and modern outlets of Lake Trasimeno (after Castellani and
Dragoni, 1981). Modern outlet : 1) – above ground; 2) underground. Medieval outlet : 3)
above ground; 4) underground; 5) wells, still visible today, on the vertical of] the medieval
outlet; 6) wells not visible; 7) landslide.
It should be underlined that, starting from about 1300 A.D., there is a fair amount of
documentation on works (or plans for works) for draining water from lakes and swamps in
central Italy (Dragoni, 1996).
The outlet built in 1420 was not efficient, therefore in 1482 Pope Sixtus IV decided to reduce
the basin of Lake Trasimeno diverting its two main inlets (the Tresa and Rio Maggiore
streams) toward the Chiusi – Chiana Valley swamps (cf. Fig. 7 and 9.).
Figure 9. Situation of the Trasimeno basin between 1482 and about 1898. A - Natural
catchment; B - Swampy area (Chiana valley).
In spite of the diversion (i.e. in spite of the reduction of the lake basin) the average lake level
remained higher than it was in the early Middle Ages and than it is today (Fig. 5 and 6). This
situation enters within the overall picture of the “Little Ice Age” and of a consequent “wetter”
period occurring at the end of the Middle Ages (Dragoni, 1998). According to several
sources, during the last two decades of the 16th century particularly cold winters occurred in
Western Europe (cf. Lamb, 1977). As for central Italy, this cold period coincides with some
large floods of the Tiber and Arno rivers (cf. Fig. 1); in particular, an exceptional flood of the
Arno river was recorded in 1589 (Natoni, 1944), while the major flood of Tiber river between
the 5th century B.C. and today was recorded in 1598 (cf. Frosini, 1977; Perrone, 1908). In
1602 (cf. Fig. 6), just after this cold and wet period, the lake level was so high that Pope
Clement VIII had a commission of three "architects" (Paolo Maggi, Giovanni Rosa and the
famous Carlo Maderno) study the problem and the status of the medieval outlet, which was
found to be obstructed in several places (Frosini, 1958). It is interesting to note that the
importance given to the problem of Lake Trasimeno is proved by the appointing of Carlo
Maderno to the commission: he was among the greatest architects of his time, well known, if
for nothing else, for completing St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, after Michelangelo’s death; as
for his expertise in hydraulics and hydrology, he had worked previously on the hydraulic
problems and reclamation of the Chiana Valley, right next to Lake Trasimeno (cf. Fig. 7 and
9). Following this commission’s report, the restoration work on the underground outlet was
given to a new commission, composed of the architects Giovanni De Rosis, Paolo Maggi and
Giovanni Fontana, the last being considered, like Maderno, one of top experts on architecture
and hydraulic works of the time; indeed Fontana, who was Maderno’s uncle, had not only
designed many great buildings and fountains, but was also in charge, together with Maderno,
of the building of an aqueduct in Loreto (central Italy) and the restoring of a great aqueduct in
Rome.
Figure 10. Map, dated 1602, which shows the increase in the lake level (represented by the
double line contouring the lake). (after Frosini, 1958).
According to Castellani and Dragoni (1981), the medieval outlet could not have succeeded in
controlling the lake level because it was undersized: in fact, the outlet's theoretical maximum
discharge was about 1 m3/s, corresponding to about 32 x 10 m3/year, i.e. about 1/3 of the
volume of water coming into the lake in rainy years. This implies that the tunnel frequently
went under pressure, with water at high velocity and frequent collapses and so it had a flow
much smaller than 1 m3/s. It should be mentioned that this same conclusion was also reached
by the two commissions appointed by Pope Clement VIII: the reports of both commissions
suggested that besides restoring the existing underground outlet, another above ground canal
should have been dug, carrying the water towards the Chiana swamps. This suggestion was
disregarded and the only work done was the repair of the 1420 outlet tunnel.
From about 1630 to about the mid-17th century, a period of lower levels began and lasted
until about the mid-18th century (Fig. 6) (however, the lake levels remained considerably
higher than today). The lowering of the lake during the first decades of the 17th century is
described by the Benedictine hydrologist Benedetto Castelli, the first to state clearly the
continuity equation. In a document dated 1639 and addressed to Galileo Galilei, Castelli,
referring to the low levels of the lake, calculates how much the lake level would increase after
a given rainfall, based on the amount of rain found in a vessel: this vessel can thus be
considered the first rain gauge. From the end of the 18th century, the level rose again and new
floods started, in concomitance with particularly cold periods recorded throughout Europe (cf.
Lamb, 1977). Up to the end of the 19th century, several projects were planned to solve the
problem; some of them regarded the restriction or the complete drainage of the lake (e.g.
Mattirolo, 1876). In 1779 it was also proposed to build a navigable connection between Lake
Trasimeno and the Arno river (cf. Fig. 1).
In 1898 a new, more modern outlet was built (Fig.11).
Figure 11. Situation of the Trasimeno basin between 1898 and about 1960. A -
Natural catchment .
This outlet, still in use today, is about 7300 m long, about 900 m of which are
underground. It is more or less parallel to the medieval outlet (Fig. 8) and its threshold at the
time of the construction was about 1.35 m lower than that of the medieval outlet (cf. Luiggi
and Ugolini, 1928; Castellani and Dragoni, 1981; Dragoni, 1982); the maximum discharge is
about 12 m3/s, much larger than that of the medieval outlet. The new outlet managed to lower
the average lake level but did not eliminate the variations in the level. Moreover, during
periods of low rain the outlet increases the lake’s tendency to become swampy and prone to
eutrophication.
During the 20th century, the level of the lake started to drop until, at the end of the
1950s, there was a strong water crisis (Fig. 3), during which the maximum depth of the lake
dropped to less than 3 m: the changing of the climate (the Little Ice Age can be considered to
have ended some time after 1850 - 1880) and the presence of the new outlet, which does not
allow any storing of water above the outlet threshold, has since then caused the average lake
level to be too low. Periods of excessively low levels are associated with serious problems for
navigation to and from the islands and for fishing and tourism, important economic activities
for the lake area; in addition, there are sanitary and health problems, due for example to the
excessive numbers of insects. Therefore, at the beginning of the 1960s the lake catchment was
enlarged by joining the basins of the Moiano and Maranzano streams and by diverting the
Tresa and Rio Maggiore streams back into the lake (Fig. 12).
Figure 12. Present situation of the Trasimeno basin. A - Natural catchment; B -
Artificially-joined basins; C - Sluice gates of the artificially-joined channels.
The resultant channeling system is reversible, in the sense that by using sluice gates
the water can be made to flow via the old river beds towards Lake Chiusi. This work raised
the average level of the lake but did not entirely eliminate the variations associated with series
of years with low rainfall, such as the 1970-75 interval and the period from about 1988 up to
the present (Fig. 3). Currently, the only way to control the level of the lake is by operating the
sluice gates of the outlet and of the artificially-joined channels.
Present situation
At present, a phase of very low levels is occurring; as is shown in Fig. 3 the lake levels
have not been so low as the present levels since the water crisis at the end of the 1950s. This
situation is at least in part caused by the decrease in rainfall and the slight increase in
temperature detected in the area (Fig. 13 - 14), consistent with that observed for other parts of
central Italy (see previous paragraph and Table 3), and is causing severe problems for the lake
ecosystem and economy.
Figure 13. Trend of the yearly rainfall on the lake surface from 1921 to 2001. S.l.. =
significancy level.
Figure 14. Trend of the average yearly temperature at the Monte del Lago station (cf. Fig. 2)
from 1963 to 2001. S.l.. = significancy level.
Since the summer of 1988 the lake level has been below the outlet threshold and so
there is no flow from the outlet, therefore the outflow from the lake more or less coincides
with the evaporation from the surface. The loss of water through evaporation in the absence of
0
200
400
600
800
1000
1200
1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
Year
Rainfall (mm)
Gradient = -1.47 mm/year
s.l. < 0.05
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Year
Temperature (°C)
Gradient = 0.024 °C / year
s.l. < 0.01
exchanges brings about an increase in salinity and in the concentration of pollutants. The
problem could become more serious if the climatic trends continue.
A monthly scale hydrological model, at the moment in a preliminary stage (cf.
Dragoni et Al., 2003), was applied to obtain indications of how the lake level would change
should the climatic trends in the area continue. These preliminary results show that even with
a decrease of only 3% in average yearly rainfall there could be a notable decrease in the
average lake level. A strong decrease could therefore be expected should the climatic trends
continue, especially with a decrease in rainfall of up to 20%, as suggested by some works
(e.g. Dragoni, 1998, IPCC, 2001). The results of the simulations are not surprising, because,
as pointed out previously, periods of such low levels have already occurred in the past (Fig. 5
and 6).
The interest of scientific research and lake management organizations is now aimed
above all at the attempt to restore and maintain the lake at levels sufficiently high to guarantee
acceptable qualitative-quantitative conditions of its water, always taking into account the
possibility of floods. In fact, in the case of exceptional rainfalls, the lake level could increase
by about 0.5 m in 48-60 hours, while during the same time interval the maximum flow from
the outlet is around 6 - 9 mm (Dragoni, 1981). Therefore, during exceptional rainstorms, the
outlet might not be effective in preventing new short-lived floods.
However, the real problem at present is the low level of the lake: to prevent the lake
from becoming a swampy area, the only possible solution at the moment is to bring water to
the lake from other basins and, at the same time, to limit the artificial drawing of water from
the lake and the surrounding aquifer. Restrictions on the artificial drawing of water have
already been imposed by local authorities, especially during the dry season, and some projects
regarding the enlargement of the lake basin have been developed (Autorità di Bacino del
Fiume Tevere, 1993; 1998).
Conclusions
In this paper the hydrological history of Lake Trasimeno and its role in the history of
water management have been briefly presented. Being a closed lake with levels strictly linked
to local rainfalls, Lake Trasimeno is a hydrological system having dynamics very sensitive to
climatic conditions, which even on a hundred-year scale are far from being uniform. The
management of Lake Trasimeno’s waters probably began in the Roman period and has
continued through the centuries up to the present. Today, as in Roman times and in spite of
our scientific knowledge, the “Lake Trasimeno problem” remains unsolved, and is still giving
life to debates over the choice of the best actions to be carried out.
Acknowledgements
This work was carried out with contribution from the MIUR and the Province of
Perugia.
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... Lake level oscillation, with alternating periods of drought and flood, continued during historical times and constituted a problem before the creation of the artificial outlet (Gambini, 1995(Gambini, , 2002. In contrast with the numerous paleoclimate studies from Italian lakes elsewhere (e.g., Magri, 2007;Magny et al., 2013;Sadori, 2016;Mercuri et al., 2013a, b;Mensing et al., 2015), only a few reports (Buratti, 2012;Burzigotti et al., 2003) and published studies (Gaino, 2012;Ludovisi and Gaino, 2010;Kirchgeog, 2015;Marchegiano et al., 2018;Francke et al., 2021) reconstructed climatic variations from Lake Trasimeno sediments. In this study, we analyze seismic reflection profiles and a transect of sediment cores collected from the northwestern sector of the lake to extract the paleoenvironmental record of this area located in the center of the Mediterranean basin. ...
... In the 20th century, lake levels varied ~2.6 m from the reference level. The unstratified alkaline water (pH 8-10) varied between mesotrophic and eutrophic when the maximum depth of the lake was less than 3 m at the end of the 1950's (Burzigotti et al., 2003;Ludovisi and Gaino, 2010;Landucci et al., 2011). ...
... High lake levels were also reconstructed for other lakes in northern Italy (Peyron et al., 2013;Branch et al., 2014). High Ca values and ostracod occurrence in Lago Trasimeno suggest high biological productivity during warm summers of the Medieval Climate Anomaly (Burzigotti et al., 2003;Branch et al., 2014). Using our age model, the Battle of Trasimeno (217 BC, i.e., 2167 BP) would fall between samples at 229 cm (2676 cal yr BP) and 220 cm (1986 cal yr BP) in core TR13-01. ...
Article
Lago Trasimeno (central Italy), 10 km wide and < 6m deep, fills a basin of tectonic origin and one of Europe's few endorheic lakes. We report on a multidisciplinary stratigraphic study, based on seismic reflection profiles and two sediment cores, aimed at providing information on the vegetational, lithological, and climate history of this area based. Trace elements, palynology, macrofossils, organic carbon, and C isotopes, coupled with AMS C-14 dating, describe environmental changes from Late-Glacial to present. The base of the cores records a Late-Glacial steppic vegetation (Poaceae, Artemisia, Chenopodiaceae), with dry and cold conditions and a high charcoal/pollen ratio. An ensuing shift to a warmer and moister climate is shown by the rise of Pinus and Quercus, and shallow water aquatics such as Nitella. Early Holocene warming, indicated by Quercus, Oleaceae, Corylus, and Betula is followed by a hiatus suggesting one or more severe drought events between 9000 and 3000 yr BP. Late Holocene presence of Alnus and Fagus indicates increased moisture, probably in winter, which would have increased lake level. Heavy metal pollution indicators (Pb, Cu, Zn) in the upper portion of the cores imply industrialization. Due to its location, to intensive and uninterrupted anthropogenic impact since proto historical times, and to its shallow depths, Lago Trasimeno provides an important observation point for climate and environmental changes in the central Mediterranean region during and before Holocene times.
... On the other hand, during the periods of drought, the lake often experienced strong decreases of the water level (e.g., up to −2.63 m below hydrometric zero level in 1958). In order to overcome the drying up caused by a strong drought period in the late 1950s, the catchment area has been artificially enlarged in the period 1957-62 connecting the Tresa, Rigo Maggiore, Moiano, and Maranzano river basins to the lake by means of the Anguillara channel [7] and in 1960, the hydrometric zero level wasset at 257.33 m a.s.l.. This large hydraulic work temporarily solved the crisis but other periods of very low water level have occurred during the last 50 years [5,8]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Lake Trasimeno is a shallow, endorheic lake located in central Italy. It is the fourth Italian largest lake and is one of the largest endorheic basins in western Europe. Because of its shallow depth and the absence of natural outflows, the lake, in historical times, alternated from periods of floods to strong decreases of the water level during periods of prolonged drought. Lake water is characterised by a NaCl composition and relatively high salinity. The geochemical and isotopic monitoring of lake water from 2006 to 2018 shows the presence of well-defined seasonal trends, strictly correlated to precipitation regime and evaporation. These trends are clearly highlighted by the isotopic composition of lake water (δ18O and δD) and by the variations of dissolved mobile species. In the long term, a progressive warming of lake water and a strong increase of total dissolved inorganic solids have been observed, indicating Lake Trasimeno as a paradigmatic example of how climate change can cause large variations of water quality and quantity. Furthermore, the rate of variation of lake water temperature is very close to the rate of variation of land-surface air temperature, LSAT, suggesting that shallow endorheic lakes can be used as a proxy for global warming measurements.
... Even if the chronology of the most recent sediments lacks the required resolution, the changes observed in the ostracod assemblages can be tentatively correlated with existing historical and documentary data. Lake-level oscillations measured during the past 150 years (Burzigotti et al., 2003;Gambini, 1995Gambini, , 2000 seem to match the proposed trend of lake-level variations based on changes in ostracod assemblages. They show the lack of marked highstand after 1889 (because of being regulated by the artificial outlet), as suggested by the decrease of C. (N.) angulata and the increase of C. torosa and D. stevensoni, and strong lowstands matching prolonged dry periods (Figure 7). ...
Article
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The endorheic nature of Lake Trasimeno in combination with its position in central Italy makes it a relevant site to better constrain spatial differences in Holocene climatic variability in the Mediterranean area. Herein, we present a high-resolution ostracod record from the Holocene section of an 8.59-m-long sedimentary core, which is compared with historical data to distinguish anthropogenic and climatic signals. The occurrence, abundance and vanishing of ostracod species are directly controlled by lake-level variations, which are in turn related to global and regional climatic changes (i.e. moisture variations). The total organic carbon content as well as observed lithological changes provide additional information about Lake Trasimeno’s hydrological and trophic conditions in the past. Most important variations have been identified at ca. 10,000 cal. yr BP, when the lacustrine basin changed from a temporary to a permanent waterbody (from Sarsicypridopsis aculeata to Candona angulata association). The highest lake level and the total absence of ostracods occur at around 9000 cal. yr BP. The recorded humid phase persisted up to ca. 4200 cal yr BP since when a lake-level decreasing trend started and continued until the present day (Candona angulata, Cyprideis torosa and Darvinula stevensoni associations). The frequency of changes in the relative abundance of the main species shows centennial variations (i.e. C. angulata, C. torosa and Darvinula stevensoni). As historical evidences yield that human interventions to control the lake level remained unsuccessful in the past, Lake Trasimeno records an almost pristine climatic signal during most of the Holocene, which is quite unusual in the highly populated Mediterranean area.
... Main characteristics of the surveyed Italian wetlands.(data sources: Almagi a 1976;Arrigoni & Ricceri 1982;Burzigotti et al 2003;Orsomando & Battoni 2002;Orsomando & Cagnucci, 2008;Pesaresi et al. 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Patterns and trends of declining reed-beds in four freshwater ecosystems in central Italy are investigated through an aerial orthoimagery-based diachronic analysis over a period of 24 years. Extent variations and retreat from the waterfront are detected in all sites, compensated only in few cases by backwards enlargements. These shape and size modifications suggest that reed die-back is associated with retreat and with a notable fragmentation process. Long-term analysis performed in one of the sites, compared to water levels, shows a drastic extent decrease co-occurring with an artificial rise of the water level, confirming the regulation of freshwater bodies as a driver of biodiversity loss. Results also suggest that reed-dominated ecosystems may reach a threshold of tolerance towards stressing conditions beyond which they cannot regenerate. The carried out study testifies for a valuable role of landscape metrics in analysing the spatial processes related to declining reed-beds. Spatial metrics prove to be a suitable tool in monitoring processes, working as early warning signals of ongoing decline and helping to model future changes.
... Trasimeno Lake is located in central Italy, in the northwestern part of the Umbria Region at an average altitude of 257 m. It is the fourth largest Italian lake, with a surface area of about 121.5 km 2 and a perimeter of about 53 km (Burzigotti et al. 2003), and is characterized by significant seasonal and yearly fluctuations in its water table. The lake's catchment area is 384 km 2 , with an average depth of 4.3 m. ...
Article
This study examined the potential of using high-resolution image data acquired by micro-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) for analysing large-scale environmental and hydraulic parameters. A procedure based on image data acquisition and processing is discussed and applied to a test case, Trasimeno Lake. This lake was selected for this study because of its importance in cultural, environmental and social context. This study focused on the temporal and spatial scale extension of reed beds (Common Reed). The Common Reed can strongly influence the ecological balance of the lake and particularly its evapotranspiration levels, which significantly influence the lake's water balance. Moreover, the lake provides valuable ecosystem services, including phytoremediation water treatment and the absorption of carbon (carbon sink). A presentation of the study area from a geographical and morphological perspective is provided; then, the platform (UAV and sensors) and the processing system of the images are discussed. The results concerning the accuracy of the method for the construction of georeferenced orthophotographs, and the preliminary results obtained from flights performed at different times and growing seasons of reed beds of Trasimeno Lake, are presented. This study also provides convincing evidence that the orthophotographs obtained with a low-cost UAV system can be used to analyse changes in the extension of the Phragmites australis (Common Reed) of Trasimeno Lake, and the alteration of some environmental parameters of the vegetation, in a temporal and spatial scale. It also highlights that this system can be used to facilitate analyses performed by traditional remote sensing method.
... The engineering works here considered are located near Lake Trasimeno, the catchment area of which has been subjected to hydraulic works since the early 15th century. According to Burzigotti et al. (2003), the levels of Lake Trasimeno have been controlled by man for centuries; the most recent hydraulic works were carried out in the early 1960s when, to mitigate the effects of drought on lake levels, the catchment area was expanded by joining the basins of the Moiano, Maranzano, Tresa and Rio Maggiore streams and making them flow into the lake (Fig. 1). The resulting channelling system is reversible, since sluice-gates can divert the water, by gravity, either to the old It should be noted that the canals and levées built in the 1960s constitute a fragile, complex system: the area is flat and the canal gradients are very low. ...
Article
Full-text available
This work, based on the data of two earthworks recently completed on two sites near Lake Trasimeno (Central Italy), examines the consequences of the enforcement in Europe of the fall-cone test for the Liquid Limit (LLcone) instead of the Casagrande cup (LLcup). This new standard has been incorporated in the latest Italian soil classification (UNI 11531-1:2014), substituting the previous one (UNI 10006:2002). A set of 28 soil samples was analysed: the research shows that LLcone is always greater than LLcup. According to the old standard, all samples were suitable for the works planned but, according to the new one, 18 % of samples became unsuitable. This is in spite of the fact that there is nothing to show that the old classification was “unsafe.” The new standard (based on LLcone) restricts the choice of materials, so that not only will costs for earthworks increase in the future but, paradoxically, because of the new standard, thousands of kilometers of properly working old levées became suddenly “unsafe.” The results suggest that soil classification criteria for earthworks should be reconsidered in order to transform the conventional “index properties” to sound physical characteristics.
... Le prime indagini relative alla vegetazione lacuale ri-salgono alla metà degli anni '60 (Granetti, 1965), più recentemente Cecchetti & Lazzerini (2007) hanno proceduto ad un aggiornamento delle informazioni lorovegetazionali del bacino evidenziando un degrado generalizzato della vegetazione imputabile sia all'attuale ridotta disponibilità d'acqua, il livello delle acque è diminuito di 100 cm s.z.i. negli ultimi trent'anni (Burzigotti et al., 2003), che a varie forme di disturbo antropico che erodendo signiicativamente la biodiversità speciica e cenologica originaria, favoriscono la massiccia proliferazione e difusione di specie nitroile ed infestanti alloctone (es. Lagarosiphon major, Myriophyllum aquaticum). ...
Article
Full-text available
Lake systems are essential for the environment, the biosphere, and humans but are highly impacted by anthropogenic activities accentuated by climate change. Understanding how lake ecosystems change due to human impacts and natural forces is crucial to managing their current state and possible future restoration. The high sensitivity of shallow closed lakes to natural and anthropogenic forcing makes these lacustrine ecosystems highly prone to variations in precipitation and sedimentation processes. These variation processes, occurring in the water column, produce geochemical markers or proxies recorded in lake sedimentary archives. This study investigated specific proxies on high-resolution sedimentary archives (2–3 years resolution) of the Trasimeno lake (Central Italy). The Trasimeno lake underwent three different hydrological phases during the twentieth century due to several fluctuations induced mainly by human activities and climate change. The Trasimeno lake, a large and shallow basin located in the Mediterranean area, is a good case study to assess the effects of intense anthropogenic activity related to agriculture, tourism, industry, and climate changes during the Anthropocene. The aim is to identify the main characteristics of the main sedimentary events in the lake during the last 150 years, determining the concentrations of major and trace elements, the amount of organic matter, and the mineralogical composition of the sediments. This type of work demonstrates that studying sediment archives at high resolution is a viable method for reconstructing the lake’s history through the evolution/trends of the geochemical proxies stored in the sediment records. This effort makes it possible to assess past anthropogenic impact and, under the objectives of the European Green Deal (zero-pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment), to monitor, prevent, and remedy pollution related to soil and water compartments. Graphical abstract
Chapter
The need to size large hydraulic infrastructures, exploit extensive agricultural areas or simply arrange water assets for human consumption makes the evaluation of the available water resources essential. Water is a scarce resource that is poorly distributed both, spatially and temporally. Therefore, a set of hydrological networks that allow the evaluation of water quantity and quality is required. In order to achieve this, the first step is to retrieve reliable data on rainfall. To carry out a correct evaluation of water resources, both in the small and large scale, disposing hydrological networks that involve a certain number of measuring devices becomes critical. Despite the great amount of studies that have been developed on measuring devices such as rain gauges, there are still many errors that remain in the measurements and that have not been ruled out yet, thus affecting the accuracy of the measurements. Accordingly, the design of a device that provides an accurate measurement of rainfall and also results affordable, could be the key to a product with great acceptance in the market. This work aims at presenting the design of a measurement device that provides accurate data and can be used in multiple ways: As an ordinary rain gauge, as a rain gauge recorder, or even allowing to carry on both functions simultaneously. Therefore, the design must bring together acceptable requirements regarding precision and economic aspects. As a result of the work developed, the proposed design has led, after a long process, to be patented with previous examination.
Conference Paper
Bottom-up solutions for managing the territory have been increase their importance in the last years. Local communities want to be involved in the management of the territory to avoid problems and to promote economic and social activities. Several different forms of participatory contracts have been developed during the last decades. However, a framework to enforce each single solution are required. The Territorial Management Contracts (TMCs) would like to give a contribute in such a direction. The contribute briefly illustrates the Territorial Management Contracts, to open a debate on them.
Article
Full-text available
The work is a first attempt at defining the effects of climatic variations on groundwater in central Italy, taking the Bagnara mountain spring located in the Umbria-Marche Apennines as a sample system. In order to quantify the possible effects of climatic variations on this system, this spring system was modeled and calibrated in different stages by using the well-known Darcian MODFLOW code of the USCS. The results obtained showed that the percentage decrease in yield related to a decrease in recharge would be higher than the percentage decrease in recharge, due to the fact that a decrease in recharge implies a change in the recharge area. These indications cause great concern, since the analyzed spring, fed by an aquifer connected to a deep regional flow, is similar to many others in the Umbria-Marche Apennines. Springs of this type represent one of the main sources of drinking water in the area, and depletion in their yield would lead to difficult/t management problems.
Chapter
Full-text available
Whatever their causes might be, climatic changes inexorably affect the water cycle. Along with trends in mean values in all aspects of the weather (precipitation, temperature, evaporation, etc.), one can expect variations in the frequency of exceptional events, and also in the hydrological regime. There maybe major consequences in terms of economy and quality of life. This has often occurred in the past, and it would be strange if does not happen again in the future. Besides the climate’s natural variability, there are good reasons to think that man’s activities these last two hundred years are leading towards a considerable rise in air temperature, the well-known anthropogenic greenhouse effect. So it is important to attempt to define in advance the environmental scenarios which can reasonably be expected to take place.
Chapter
One of the aims of this article is to present a series of information on the overall variations of the water surplus in Central Italy over the last 3000 years. Water surplus is understood here to be the water in the hydrological balance which is available as surface runoff and aquifer recharge. The other aims of this work are to describe the present climatic trends and, on the basis of these and that which has taken place in the past, to attempt to get an idea of what is likely to occur in the near future. A schematic map of central Italy and the location of the places mentioned in following is given in Figure 9-1. The data and conclusions given in this article refer only to the area west of the Apennine chain, roughly at a latitude between 41° and 43° 30’ N: at this time the results given here cannot be considered as applicable outside this area, especially north of the Apennine water divide.
Article
According to various Authors, a negative trend in rainfall and a slight increasing trend in temperature have been taking place in Central Italy since the end of the last century. These climatic trends can be traced to the increase in temperature seen on a global scale (i.e. "Global Change"). A decrease in rainfall of up to 20--30% can be expected for the next 50 years in the Western Mediterranean area and the Italian peninsula, should the detected trends continue. Lake Trasimeno has an average surface area of about 121 km^2 and a maximum depth of about 5 m; it has one artificial outlet and is a natural protected area. The lake level is highly variable, on both a seasonal and a pluriannual scale, and this is closely related to local rainfall. At present a stage of low levels is occurring, caused at least in part by the decrease in rainfall in the area. In this work a monthly lake level simulation model was developed. Once calibrated, the model was used to simulate the effects of different climatic situations on lake levels. The results show that, should the detected climatic trends continue, a considerable decrease in the average level is to be expected during the next few decades. This would cause a large decrease of the volume of water stored in the lake and, therefore, a deterioration of the water quality. According to these results, in order to minimize the impact of climatic changes, a better lake management is necessary, with interventions such as artificial enlargement of the catchment basin and restrictions regarding the amount of water being taken from the lake and the basin for irrigation. Key words : Lake Trasimeno, climatic change, lake levels, hydrological modelling
Book
This book includes discussion of the following topics: man's awareness of climatic changes; evidence of past weather and climate; climate and the long history of the earth; climatic in historical times; man-made climate changes; and, approaches to the problem of forecasting.
Article
Climatic scenario models forecast an increase of the air temperature in the next century of 1.5–3.5 C, because of the anthropogenic enhancement of the concentration greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The analysis of the trend of long-lasting data series of climatic parameters seems to support such a prediction: indeed due to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, a climate modification could be already ongoing. Several papers have been published dealing with the global scale climate, this paper, however, deals with an investigation on the regional scale, referring specifically to the Central-Western Mediterranean basin. We are concerned with the parameters which are more affected by climate changes, such as pressure, temperature and precipitation. The analysis carried out indicates that in the Central-Western Mediterranean basin the climate is evolving in a consistent way; we have found: i) an increase of air pressure at the surface and at the upper levels; ii) a reduction in cloudiness and precipitation amount; iii) an increase by about 1 C in surface air temperature during the period 1860–1995 and in more recent years a rise of the freezing level and of the tropopause; iv) a reduction of strong cyclogenetic events and an increase of heat waves. These results, although compatible with the scenarios predicted, do not allow a final conclusion to be drawn concerning a man-made influence on climate change in the basin.
  • Della Strabo
  • Geografia
Strabo – Della Geografia. Libro V. Trad. Ambrosoli F., vol. 3° P.A., Molina ed. Milano (1833).
Variazioni climatiche e crisi dell'ambiente antropizzato
  • F Ortolani
  • S Pagliuca
Ortolani F., Pagliuca S. (1994) -Variazioni climatiche e crisi dell'ambiente antropizzato. Il Quaternario 7 (1), pp. 351 -356.
Le variazioni del Clima : dall'ultima grande glaciazione alle prospettive per il XXI secolo
  • M Pinna
Pinna M. (1996) -Le variazioni del Clima : dall'ultima grande glaciazione alle prospettive per il XXI secolo. Franco Angeli, Milano.