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Geomorphological, chemical and physical study of “calanchi” landforms in NW Sicily (southern Italy)

  • Autori: Pulice, I.; Cappadonia, C.; Scarciglia, F.; Robustelli, G.; Conoscenti, C.; De Rose, R.; Rotigliano, E.; Agnesi, V.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2012
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • Parole Chiave: Calanchi fronts, Chemical and physical properties, SAR, Microforms, Mineralogy
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This work deals with an integrated geomorphological and chemical–physical study of “calanchi” landforms in two sites (Ottosalme and Catalfimo) of NW Sicily (southern Italy), developed on dominant silty-clay deposits. The calanchi fronts are characterized by different morphological features and dominant geomorphic processes. Sharp knife-edged ridges and concentrated water runoff dominate at Ottosalme, and smoother landforms affected by mass movements (mud flows and translational slides) prevail at Catalfimo. We focused on some geochemical and physical parameters such as pH, total dissolved salts, sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), porosity, plastic and liquid limits as possible causes of the above differences, with special emphasis on their role in discriminating the behavior of peculiar microforms, such as a weathered outer crust and the corresponding inner massive portion (unweathered substrate). Our results show that the main chemical–physical features of calanchi morphologies and microforms often display no clear correlations with respect to those reported in the existing literature, pointing to a higher complexity of patterns and behaviors. In particular, all samples consist of dispersive material (SAR values>10), but a more plastic and liquid behavior at Catalfimo can explain a higher occurrence of landslides and smoother morphology than at Ottosalme. Higher SAR values at Ottosalme well explain the dominance of concentrated water erosion. The chemical behavior of the studied microforms is better described by pH being alkaline with higher values in the inner substrate than the outer crust, and appears to minimize the effects of all other parameters and their responses to other external controlling factors. Lower SAR values in the crust suggest that clay dispersivity is not the prominent factor controlling its surface detachment and mobility downslope, which is more likely promoted by its higher porosity and consequent water absorption than the inner portion, with changes in the saturation state, shear strength and water pressure.