The global threat of land subsidence: an anthropogenic hazard accompanying the depletion of groundwater resources. A new study published on “Science” Journal


The CNR-IRPI researcher Mauro Rossi participated to the realization of a new study published on “Science” Journal.

The article, titled “Mapping the global threat of land subsidence” realized within the “Land Subsidence International Initiative” of UNESCO and coordinated by Dr Gerardo Herrera-García, a researcher from the Geological Survey of Spain (IGME), analyses at a global scale, the land subsidence, an anthropogenic hazard accompanying the depletion of groundwater resources.

Even though land subsidence is a slow and gradual process, it can permanently reduce the storage capacity of aquifer systems, damage buildings and infrastructures, and increase the flooding risk in alluvial areas and coastal plains. Land subsidence greater than 25 cm/year is occurring in several countries including Indonesia, Iran and several cities in Mexico. In Jakarta, Indonesia, the subsidence impact is so severe that the government is planning to move the capital to the island of Borneo. Land subsidence is a serious threat even to many Italian coastal areas, in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Puglia, Toscana, Campania, Calabria, as claimed by Luigi Tosi (CNR-IGG) e Pietro Teatini (Università di Padova), co-authors of the study.

Potential subsidence areas threaten 1.2 billion inhabitants and 21% of the major cities worldwide, with 86% of the exposed population living in Asia. Even though further research is still needed to fully understand the global impact of land subsidence, this work estimates that the current economic exposure to potential subsidence amounts to US$8.17 trillion, or 12% of the global gross domestic product. Moreover, the research indicates that by 2040, an estimated 635 million inhabitants will be living in flood prone areas, where land subsidence could increase the flooding risk.

Citation: Gerardo Herrera-García, Pablo Ezquerro, Roberto Tomás, Marta Béjar-Pizarro, Juan López-Vinielles, Mauro Rossi, Rosa M. Mateos, Dora Carreón-Freyre, John Lambert, Pietro Teatini, Enrique Cabral-Cano, Gilles Erkens, Devin Galloway, Wei-Chia Hung, Najeebullah Kakar, Michelle Sneed, Luigi Tosi, Hanmei Wang, Shujun Ye (2021). Mapping the global threat of land subsidence. Science: Vol. 371, Issue 6524, pp. 34-36. DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8549.

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