Relative Path Impact Index (RPII): a morphometric approach to quantify the effect of anthropogenic features on surface flow processes in agricultural landscapes

Friday, 19 December 2014
Massimo Prosdocimi1, Giulia Sofia1, Federico Preti2, Giancarlo Dalla Fontana1 and Paolo Tarolli1, (1)TESAF, Department of Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, University of Padova, Legnaro (PD), Italy, (2)University of Florence, GESAAF, Agriculture, Forestry and Biosystems Engineering Division, Florence, Italy
Soil erosion in cultivated land is one of the main critical issue because of its significant economic consequences, especially whether it occurs in hilly and mountainous environments. Among the cultivated lands, vineyards deserve a particular attention. In fact, they not only represent one of the most important crop in terms of income and employment, but they also constitute the form of agricultural land use that causes the highest soil loss. In these cultivated lands, the construction of terraces is one of the most widely used system for soil and water conservation measures. However, while favoring agricultural activities, terraces may cause local instabilities as well, if they are not properly maintained. Terraced fields are also served by agricultural roads and the construction of these anthropogenic features can have deep effects on water flows and instabilities. In fact, the plane surface of roads can intercept the overland and the subsurface flow and can modify the natural flow directions expanding the drainage network.

The main objective of this work is to use high-resolution topography derived from lidar technology for a hydro-geomorphological analysis of terraced vineyards. We considered few case studies located in Italy. At first, the Relative Path Impact Index (RPII) is used to identify likely sections of terraces and agricultural roads subject to potential landsliding or erosion. Statistical thresholds of RPII are then defined to label the most critical areas. Afterwards, using the index and the defined thresholds, different scenarios of soil conservation measures are simulated, to establish the optimal solution for erosion reduction. The results prove the effectiveness of high-resolution topography in the analysis of surface erosion in terraced vineyards, when the surface water flow is the main factor triggering the instabilities. This preliminary analysis can help in scheduling a suitable planning to mitigate the consequences of the anthropogenic alterations induced by the terraces and agricultural roads.

Tarolli, P., Sofia, G., Calligaro, S., Prosdocimi, M., Preti, F., Dalla Fontana, G. (2014). Vineyards in terraced landscapes: new opportunities from lidar data, Land Degradation & Development, doi:10.1002/ldr.2311.