Continued retreat of Alpine glaciers not only affects water availability (i.e. for irrigation and for hydropower) but is also expected to influence the annual sediment yield of mountain catchments.
Sediment transport processes drive river morphodynamics from short (hours) to long (decades to millennia) time scales, which in turn affects directly human society in terms of potential hazards (i.e. abrupt morphological changes during bed floods and progressive variations) as well as of availability of water resource (i.e. reservoir sedimentation). In addition, sediment transport is key for aquatic ecosystems’ dynamics.
This project studies two glacierized basins of South Tyrol, located within the Etsch/Adige River basin. A multidisciplinary project team composed of glaciologists and geomorphologists (Univ. Innsbruck, Institutes of Geography and Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences), hydrologists and experts in sediment transport (Free Univ. Bozen-Bolzano), and modellers of river morphodynamics (Univ. Trento). During field activities to monitor i) glacial dynamics and hydrology at SuldenFerner and MatscherFerner and ii) sediment transport and bed changes in Sulden and Saldur River. These survey activities will be accompanied by physical and numerical modelling, to investigate how occasional (i.e. from debris flows originated by rock glacier degradation) and cyclic (i.e. from glacier melt) sediment inputs are routed and deformed downstream along the main channel in response to different morphological controls (e.g. valley width, slope). A methodology to identify the most likely future (50-100 yr) channel adjustments in glacial rivers will be proposed based on the acquired observations and knowledge improvements, addressing different scenarios of future climate and glacier extension.