EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Degradation and loss of soil in karst terrains

Umberto Samuele D'Ettorre1, Isabella Serena Liso1, Luca Pisano2, Veronica Zumpano2, and Mario Parise1
Umberto Samuele D'Ettorre et al.
  • 1University Aldo Moro, Earth and Environmental Sceinces, Bari, Italy (
  • 2National Research Council, Institute of Research for the Geo-Hydrological Protection, Bari, Italy

Fragility of karst derive from a variety of reasons, starting from peculiarity of the geological, hydrogeological, and ecological features, and the facility to transform and negatively impact the environment through many anthropogenic activities. This makes karst terrains among the most endangered areas in the world, as repeatedly demonstrated in many karst areas, also with severe impacts on natural resources. Apulia, the southern-east portion of Italy, is an almost entirely karst region, where expansion of the urbanized areas, development of agricultural practices, and lack of awareness of the importance of karst resources over the last decades have determined an acceleration in the degradation of the karst environment. This is quite in contrast with the long history of the region, where past cultures and civilizations were able to live sustainably with the karst environment, without destroying or polluting its precious natural resources, in primis groundwater.

For instance, the agricultural practices marked a very bad time starting from the 1980s, when intense stone clearing (performed with the goal to obtain new land for cultivation) strongly changed the original karst landscape, which was characterized by bare karst, with slightly incised karst valleys and dolines, and a high number of caves. As a result of such an intense conversion of land cover, karst landforms were highly disturbed, many of them were canceled, and surficial erosion and loss of soil had to be often registered on the occasion of the main rainstorms. Alta Murgia, one of the main karst regions of Apulia (also included within the National Natural Park) was particularly affected, and obliteration of many karst features had to be recorded. Furthermore, the extraction activity carried out in quarries, to extract limestone rocks used for building and ornamental purposes, resulted in destruction of karst caves, against the regional laws which prescribed the need in exploring any cave found during quarrying, aimed at ascertaining any likely interest of the underground karst. Overall, these anthropogenic activities caused an high negative impact on the Alta Murgia karst, which only recently has started to become worth of specific studies from the scientific community. Quantification of the loss of soil, and of the karst landforms is not easy, but in some portions of Alta Murgia has definitely been significant.

Within projects dedicated to creating a greater awareness about local populations of the importance of living in karst, and of respecting such a natural landscape which hosts fundamental natural resources, we present in this contribution some examples of preliminary evaluations of the landscape changes observed, and of their negative impacts on karst.



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Pisano L., Zumpano V., Pepe M., Liso I.S. & Parise M., 2022, Assessing Karst Landscape Degradation: a case study in Southern Italy. Land, vol. 11, 1842.

How to cite: D'Ettorre, U. S., Liso, I. S., Pisano, L., Zumpano, V., and Parise, M.: Degradation and loss of soil in karst terrains, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-5640,, 2023.