Safeguarding and management of cultural and natural heritage at risk from climate extreme events


The purpose of this session is to show and discuss progress regarding current relevant research and initiatives on Cultural Heritage Risk Management in the framework of climate extreme events. It also aims to increase the awareness, need and requirement of stakeholders and policy makers who are involved in disaster risk reduction processes to become more integrated in their overall approach.
The protection of Natural and Cultural Heritage in the face of global change is increasingly becoming a major concern for decision-makers, stakeholders and citizens worldwide. Disasters and catastrophes greatly impact on the future wellbeing of our heritage assets, with each incident diminishing their cultural significance, historic, physical and artistic value to some degree or other. Such events also pose a significant threat to the safety of occupant and users and, inevitably, directly and adversely affect the livelihood of local communities.
Research into assets at risk, exposure, impact, methodologies and tools for adaptation capacity and strategies is therefore urgently needed to safeguard and preserve Cultural Heritage, both tangible and related intangible aspects, against continuous decay.
This sessions aims to explore sustainable methodologies, tool and strategies for resilience strengthening of Cultural Heritage at risk exposed to climate extreme events in an interdisciplinary and multi-sectorial approach.

Conveners: Alessandra Bonazza, Alessandro Sardella, Jose Antonio Fernandez Merodo
| Fri, 21 Oct, 10:45–12:30|Sala degli Svizzeri

Orals: Fri, 21 Oct | Sala degli Svizzeri

Chairperson: Alessandro Sardella
Fernanda Prestileo, Alessandra Mascitelli, Guido Meli, Marco Petracca, Claudio Giorgi, Davide Melfi, Silvia Puca, and Stefano Dietrich

In response to damage resulting from the natural phenomena of aging and decay but also from the occurrence of disasters (earthquakes, floods, fires, etc.), the conservation strategies of cultural heritage (whether it is movable or immovable) inevitably require a methodological approach aimed at planned conservation and preparedness for the risk event of the cultural site. Between 2007 and 2012, in this context, the intervention of recovery and conservation of the archaeological site of Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina (Sicily, Italy), UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1997), was realized.

The project, directed by the Centro Regionale per la Progettazione e il Restauro, Regione Siciliana, was aimed not only at performing the conservative intervention of the monumental site and its decorative apparatus, but also at drawing up a protocol for preventive maintenance. This protocol concerned the new covering system of the archaeological site, its protection and fruition, as well as the hydrogeological asset of the territory on which it rises. In this frame, since the early Middle Ages the fonts document serious floods that interested the area on which the Villa del Casale is located. These floods inevitably interacted with its conservation history, even influencing its existence. The damages caused by the flood of October 1991 are documented, when the archaeological area was already excavated thanks to the archaeological campaign directed by the archaeologist Gino Vinicio Gentili. These excavations were themselves influenced by the flood of 1951 that covered the area still partially explored. In this study, after considering the damage caused by the previous weather event of October 1991 on the UNESCO site, the occurrence of October 2021 and the construction’s positive response to the stress caused by the meteorological phenomenon are analysed.

The investigation was carried out using ground-based and satellite-based measurements, to provide a detailed overview of the extreme event that occurred, to identify the pressures that insisted on the studied site. The analysis highlights the effectiveness of recovery and conservation project carried out on the monumental complex and completed in 2012.

Keywords: UNESCO site, Archaeological area, Meteorology, Extreme weathers, Flooding, Safeguarding


- Meli, G. (Ed.) (2007). Progetto di recupero e conservazione della Villa Romana del Casale di Piazza Armerina, Palermo, Collana I Quaderni di Palazzo Montalbo. I Grandi Restauri, 12/1, C.R.P.R., Palermo.

- Coletta, V., Mascitelli, A., Bonazza, A., Ciarravano, A., Federico, S., Prestileo, F., Torcasio, R.C. & Dietrich, S. (2021). Multi-instrumental Analysis of the Extreme Meteorological Event Occurred in Matera (Italy) on November 2019. In International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications (pp.140-154). Springer, Cham.

- Prestileo, F., Mascitelli, A., Meli, G., Petracca, M., Giorgi, C., Melfi, D., Puca, S. & Dietrich, S. (2022). Resilience of cultural heritage in extreme weather conditions: the case of the UNESCO Villa Romana del Casale archaeological site’s response to the Apollo Medicane in October 2021. In International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications (In Press). Springer, Cham.

How to cite: Prestileo, F., Mascitelli, A., Meli, G., Petracca, M., Giorgi, C., Melfi, D., Puca, S., and Dietrich, S.: Safeguarding of the Villa Romana del Casale UNESCO site from severe weather events: the case study of Apollo medicane occurred in October 2021, 17th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Risks, Frascati, Rome, Italy, 18–21 Oct 2022, Plinius17-44,, 2022.

Coffee break
Chairperson: Alessandra Bonazza
Nico Bonora, Alessandra Bonazza, Daniele Spizzichino, and Andrea Taramelli

During the last decades, there has been quickly increasing awareness of the need for efficient, science-based tools, to be used to monitor and protect cultural and natural heritage. Indeed heritage assets are increasingly at risk because of the impact of natural and anthropogenic hazards, the frequency and intensity of which continue to be amplified and worsened by climate change. The protection of archaeological sites and monumental complexes in the age of mass tourism and climate change represents a growing challenge that can only be addressed by integrating management models and best practices. In this context, the innovative application of remote sensing technologies and Copernicus data and information could certainly constitute a turning point as demonstrated in other transversal areas. Sites and monuments are affected by various anthropogenic environmental pressures, acting in synergy, that impact them with varying frequency and intensity both in space and time. Therefore, long-term monitoring of prioritised environmental and climate parameters and indicators, at proper spatial and temporal resolution, is a key requirement for setting up action plans and strategies of sustainable management. This monitoring should rely on the integration of data from remote sensing and in situ measurements, along with climate modeling and forecasting outputs.  The present paper aims to summarize the work and outcomes conducted by the Task Force Copernicus Cultural Heritage (CCHTF) to evaluate the uptake extent in the field of Cultural Heritage management by the Copernicus Committee. The objective of CCHTF was to assess the current and future potential of Copernicus data, services and products uptake by users, and identify the possible Copernicus architectural solutions to support data and/or information access. The CCHTF was composed by the Member States’ (MS) national experts, from both the Cultural Heritage and Earth Observation domains, officially coordinated by Italy and chaired by the Italian Ministry of Culture. The CCHTF included an extended range of stakeholders (research and business communities, public authorities, policy and decision makers, operational bodies and social players), who provided a set of users’ needs, extending across the different cultural heritage disciplines.

The interaction with the Copernicus Entrusted Entities responsible for the Service, Space and in-situ component developments resulted in the identification of a number of further Copernicus products, suitable for support of CH users’ activities; these mostly stem from the Global Land Component, Atmosphere, Climate Change and Marine monitoring Services, as well as Emergency and Security. At the end of the users consultation phase, 41 specific requirements were identified. After that, the matching of the identified requirements with the Copernicus capacity was addressed, identifying 31 requirements partially or completely satisfiable by the current Copernicus products. As general outcome we can say that cultural heritage sector stands to benefit greatly from an increased use of remote sensing technologies. It is also expect that the use of Copernicus capabilities by cultural heritage stakeholders will produce innovative new methods and approaches to cultural heritage protection and management. This importance must urgently be reflected by substantial and sustainable investment into all of the EU’s relevant technological programs.

How to cite: Bonora, N., Bonazza, A., Spizzichino, D., and Taramelli, A.: Data, product and service from Copernicus program to support Cultural and Natural Heritage monitoring, protection and management., 17th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Risks, Frascati, Rome, Italy, 18–21 Oct 2022, Plinius17-48,, 2022.

Alberico Sonnessa and Eufemia Tarantino

Due to heavy anthropogenic pressure suffered by large areas of our countries, extreme climate events such as heavy rainfalls, potentially followed by flooding, are having a growing impact on the environment. Historic towns are particularly exposed to these threats, which are becoming increasingly frequent and, in some cases, may have a devastating effect on the territories and population. Such critical occurrences, with reference to the catastrophes they can lead to and how fast they can occur, are referred to as Slow-Onset Disasters (SODs), and Rapid Onset Disasters (RODs). In this context, GNSS observations can help to develop new tools aimed at tackling the effects of these events on the built environment and their users. With this aim, a Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS), based on GNSS observations, named SNIK, was installed by the research group Applied Geomatics Laboratory (AGlab) at the Polytechnic University of Bari, with the support of Stonex Italy, while an integrated test field, consisting of four GNSS rover receivers was planned to be implemented on the new Rectorate building, currently under construction. The SNIK CORS is based on a high-precision Stonex SC2200 GNSS receiver equipped with a SA1500 choke-ring antenna. The test field is set up to be upgraded with additional sensors, such as SAR corner reflectors, accelerometers, and weather stations. The availability of a continuous stream of GNSS observations wants to help and facilitate the development of integrated approaches aimed at the early detection of the occurrence of potentially catastrophic events over the short and long-term period and the implementation of strategies for the mitigation of their impact on the safety and the healthiness of the built environment and cultural heritage, which is intrinsically more prone to be damaged.

How to cite: Sonnessa, A. and Tarantino, E.: GNSS observation for reducing the impact of Slow and Rapid Onset Disasters on cultural heritage – the SNIK CORS, 17th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Risks, Frascati, Rome, Italy, 18–21 Oct 2022, Plinius17-51,, 2022.

Daniele Spizzichino, Marica Mercalli, Paolo Iannelli, Carlo Cacace, Antonia Pasqua Recchia, Alessandra Bonazza, Paolo Mazzanti, and Claudio Modena

The present paper illustrates and summarizes the activities carried out so far for the implementation of the first “Extraordinary National plan for monitoring and conservation of Italian cultural heritage”. This initiative is part of the wider context of the institutional activities of the Ministry of Culture - General Directorate for the Safety of Cultural Heritage, aimed at the conservation and protection of cultural heritage, and specifically on its safeguarding towards the impacts from different risk factors, including climate-induced extreme events. This two-year plan has 2 fundamental pillars and targets: 1) to carry out both remote and in situ integrated monitoring systems of the most vulnerable monuments and sites (e.g. bell towers, monumental complexes, archaeological areas in urban, coastal and remote areas) in relation to their structural and environmental level of different risks; 2) to provide a decision support tool (e.g. an integrated monitoring system, DSS) for supporting owners and managers of immovable Cultural Heritage to activate the necessary procedures and any subsequent conservation and preventive intervention and measure. With reference to the satellite downstream services, to be provided in the context of the National Mirror Copernicus Program, the implementation of the aforementioned Plan is therefore useful for updating the knowledge resources, already available in the various information systems and repositories of the Ministry (e.g. Carta del Rischio and SecurArt projects), as well as the main data aimed at the architectural and structural characterization of the whole CH. In this first year, the technical committee purposely set up by the General Directorate for the Safety of Cultural Heritage, implemented and initiated the following activities through 10 work tasks which include: 1) agreements with research bodies and governmental institutions; 2) general plan management and technical support; 3) sensor installation for on-site monitoring activities; 4) integration of different monitoring technologies and calibration by use of satellite monitoring techniques; 5) implementation and filling of specific datasheet for the vulnerability assessment; 6) creation of an IT dashboard for the development DSS, data management and interoperability between systems; 7) adaptation of existing IT structures and purchase of those necessary for local sites managements, satellite data management and post-processing services; 8) evolution of a unique information system (new dashboard) integrated with the Carta del Rischio and SecurArt, also by the use and implementation of satellite data and in situ monitoring; 9) general implementation of national monitoring plan integrated by and in situ sensors; 10) test validation in different areas at diverse scales: identification of sites, monuments and buildings differentiated by typologies, risk, relevance, installation of systems for monitoring, degradation and potential damage. As part of the plan, at least 18 test areas have already been identified throughout the whole country. At the same time, the filling survey and the implementation of the IT dashboard were launched

How to cite: Spizzichino, D., Mercalli, M., Iannelli, P., Cacace, C., Recchia, A. P., Bonazza, A., Mazzanti, P., and Modena, C.: The extraordinary plan for monitoring and conservation of Italian cultural heritage, 17th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Risks, Frascati, Rome, Italy, 18–21 Oct 2022, Plinius17-91,, 2022.

Alessandro Sardella, Linda Canesi, Riccardo Cacciotti, Anna Kaiser, and Alessandra Bonazza

It is widely recognized that climate change is creating continuous and new challenges for the protection and conservation of cultural heritage and it is foreseen that the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as heavy rain, flooding, prolonged drought periods, are likely to increase in the near and far future throughout Europe.

The present contribution aims to study the Wachau valley in Austria, taken as example of cultural terraced landscape exposed to climate change related challenges, and especially to its risk assessment and vulnerability evaluation. In order to do that, methodologies and tools developed within the Interreg Central Europe project STRENCH (STRENgthening resilience of Cultural Heritage at risk in a changing environment) were exploited, particularly the “Risk mapping tool for cultural heritage protection, WebGIS tool”. Methodology for vulnerability ranking, time series based on earth observation data (e.g. Copernicus C3S reanalysis products) and future hazard maps at territorial level based on outputs from regional and global climate models (EURO Cordex experiment) available within the WebGIS Tool were mainly applied and exploited.

Outcomes include a numerical quantification of the vulnerability for two dry-stone wall terraced areas taken into consideration and climate projections of the changes of the extreme indices R20mm, R95pTOT and Rx5day with spatial resolution of 12x12 km for the near (2021-2050) and far (2071-2100) future, under stabilizing (RCP 4.5) and pessimistic (RCP 8.5) scenarios. A general increase of the three indices in the two investigated areas in the far future under the pessimistic scenario is foreseen, highlighting a high likelihood of heavy rain and flooding risk. The results obtained could therefore support policy and decision-makers in defining strategies for the protection of cultural heritage, assisting local stakeholders in improving their know-how on the process of defining priorities of intervention (preparedness / emergency / recovery).

How to cite: Sardella, A., Canesi, L., Cacciotti, R., Kaiser, A., and Bonazza, A.: Risk assessment and vulnerability evaluation of cultural landscapes exposed to extreme events linked to climate change: the Wachau case study, 17th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Risks, Frascati, Rome, Italy, 18–21 Oct 2022, Plinius17-93,, 2022.