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GEOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND LANDSCAPES 2020, VOL. 4, NO. 1, 71–86 INWASCON https://doi.org/10.1080/24749508.2019.1585658 RESEARCH ARTICLE Climate change eﬀects on landscape and environment in glacierized Alpine areas: retreating glaciers and enlarging forelands in the Bernina group (Italy) in the period 1954–2007 a a a b b C. D’Agata , G. Diolaiuti , D. Maragno , C. Smiraglia and M. Pelﬁni a b Dipartimento di Scienze e Politiche Ambientali (ESP), Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy; Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra “A. Desio”, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Received 27 June 2018 We analysed the recent involution of glaciers in the Bernina group (Italy), which are shrinking Accepted 19 February 2019 thus permitting a rapid enlargement of the forelands. We delimited glacier outlines upon aerial photographs (1954 and 1981 stereo pairs analysed through an optical system) and KEYWORDS orthophotos (2003 and 2007 digital imagines directly managed via GIS software). All the Alpine glaciers; climate obtained data were overlapped and compared. The estimated glacier area change during change impacts; glacier 1954–2007 was −36.5 ± 2.4% (−16.2 ± 0.4 km ). The changes sped up more recently; in fact, shrinkage; enlarging glacier 2 2 during 1981–1954 (27 years) the variation was −0.206 km /y, against −0.387 km /y during forelands; remote sensing 1981–2003 (22 years), and −0.535 km /y during 2007–2003 (4 years). In the 1954–2007 period, the forelands experienced a continuous increase (+14.7 km ). Moreover, the analysis of the colour orthophotos allowed observations of: (i) changes aﬀecting shape and geometry of glaciers (growing rock outcrops, tongue separations, increasing supraglacial debris and collapse structures) and (ii) main features of glacier forelands (bare rock exposures, debris and sediments and, in the latter case, occurrence of vegetation colonizing such pristine areas). Glacier forelands resulted also subjected to the action of melting water, debris transport, and periglacial processes, with consequences on landscape and geoheritage. 1. Introduction Hughes, 2009, 2010), dramatically decreasing therein glacier presence, reduced in some areas to a mere The retreat of glaciers, from Alpine areas (Haeberli & relic of the past coverage. Beniston, 1998) to Antarctica (Cook, Fox, Vaughan, Glacier shrinkage is particularly severe upon the Alps & Ferrigno, 2005; Frezzotti & Orombelli, 2014; Rott, and it is likely driven by the rapid increase in air Skvarca, & Nagler, 1996), during the last few decades, temperature during the last few decades (IPCC, 2013). is widely reported as a clear and unambiguous sign of In facts, in the Alps atmospheric warming was found to global warming (Oerlemans, 2005). more than double the global mean value over the last The recent rapid area and volume loss of mountain 50 years (Böhm et al., 2001), with a signiﬁcant summer glaciers in response to climate warming has been warming since 1970 (Casty, Wanner, Luterbacher, reported at high and low latitudes all over the Planet Esper, & Böhm, 2005; Leonelli et al., 2016). (e.g., Falaschi, Bravo, Masiokas, Villalba, & Rivera, Glacier geometry changes are key variables with 2013; Gardent, Rabatel, Dedieu, & Deline, 2014;Kaser, respect to strategies for early detection of enhanced Cogley, Dyurgerov, Meier, & Ohmura, 2006;Rabatel greenhouse eﬀects on climate (Hoelzle, Haeberli, et al., 2013; Smiraglia et al., 2015; Wang, Siegert, Zhou, Dischl, & Peschke, 2003; Kuhn, 1980). &Franke, 2013). The largest part of mountain glaciers The terminus ﬂuctuation data, collected in the and small ice caps have been generally retreating ever Alps over the last two centuries, display a fairly con- since the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA) but more stant retreating trend, with reduction of length from recently glaciers began melting at rates that can hardly several hundreds of metres (in the case of smaller be explained only by natural climate variability glaciers) to a few kilometres (in the case of larger (Dyurgerov & Meier, 2000;IPCC, 2013). ones, Citterio et al., 2007; Hoelzle et al., 2003). This In particular, a tremendously rapid glacier retreat dominating trend showed only one meaningful was found in the southernmost parts of Europe pause: between the Fifties and Nineties of the past (Spain, Apennines of central Italy, and the Balkans) century, a signiﬁcant percentage of glaciers all over ever since the LIA (see Branda et al., 2010;D’Oreﬁce, the World were found advancing (Patzelt, 1985; Pecci, Smiraglia, & Ventura, 2000; González Trueba, Wood, 1988) including 85% in Italy (Citterio et al., Martín Moreno, Martínez de Pisón, & Serrano, 2008; CONTACT G. Diolaiuti email@example.com Dipartimento di Scienze e Politiche Ambientali (ESP), Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 72 C. D’AGATA ET AL. 2007). After this limited (in magnitude and rates) 1961b, 1962) suggests an overall reduction of the glacier glacier advance, retreating became dominant again extent of about 30% (i.e., from 526.88 km in the Sixties (Hoelzle et al., 2003). to 369.90 km in the present time). The strongest area The mass balance records, measured within the reduction was found aﬀecting small glaciers (i.e., gla- Alps over the last six decades, indicate strong ice ciers with area < 1 km ), these latter cover roughly 80% losses accelerating more recently (i.e., 1985-hitherto, of the census in the Alps and make an important con- Zemp, 2008b; Zemp, Haeberli, Hoelzle, & Paul, 2006; tribution to water resources (Citterio et al., 2007; Zemp, Paul, Hoelzle, & Haeberli, 2008a). D’Agata, Bocchiola, Maragno, Smiraglia, & Diolaiuti, The shrinkage of mountain glaciers is followed by 2014; Diolaiuti, Bocchiola, D’agata, & Smiraglia, 2012b; a progressive increase of supraglacial debris coverage Diolaiuti, Bocchiola, Vagliasindi, D’agata, & Smiraglia, (Azzoni et al., 2018; Cannone, Diolaiuti, Guglielmin, 2012a; Bonardi et al. 2012). These data are in agreement & Smiraglia, 2008; Diolaiuti, D’agata, Meazza, with ﬁndings from previous European authors. Paul Zanutta, & Smiraglia, 2009; Diolaiuti & Smiraglia, et al. (2004) evaluated that 44% of the Swiss glacier 2010) which contribute to the transformation from area decrease during 1973–1998/1999 was charged to debris free glaciers to partially or totally debris cov- glaciers smaller than 1 km , encompassing 18% of the ered ones. Supraglacial debris mantle frequently sup- total area in 1973. From the new Swiss Glacier ports plant germination (Caccianiga et al., 2011), thus Inventory (SGI2010, see Fischer, Huss, Barboux, & making grass and shrubs common features at the Hoelzle, 2014), the total glacierized area resulted 2 2 glacier surface also at high elevations (Pelﬁni & 944.3 ± 24.1 km and the area change is −362.6 km Leonelli, 2014). Moreover also trees can grow at the (i.e., −27.7%) between 1973 and 2010. Lambrecht and glacier surface whenever the following conditions are Kuhn (2007) reported that the Austrian glaciers experi- found: (1) the glacier terminus altitude is found enced an area change of about −17% during 1969–1998. below the treeline, (2) the rock debris is thick enough Gardent et al. (2014) realized the ﬁrst multitemporal and, (3) the glacier surface velocity is low; in these French Glacier Inventory. They found that glaciers in cases actual forests at the glacier surface can be the French Alps covered 369 km in 1967/71 and observed (Caccianiga et al., 2011, 2012; Pelﬁni, 275 km in 2006/09 thus giving an extent decrease by Santilli, Leonelli, & Bozzoni, 2007). 25% between 1967–71 and 2006–09. Other changes linked to glacier shrinkage are col- This strong and stronger glacier area retreat lapse structures at the glacier surface and a modiﬁed resulted coupled with fast and faster enlargement of crevasse evolution which strongly inﬂuence glacier glacier forelands. In fact, the ongoing retreat of the hazard and risk conditions (Diolaiuti et al., 2006) glacier snouts is driving the exposure of areas pre- thus requiring accurate and updated surveys viously covered by ice. In these pristine territories, (Azzoni et al., 2017; Fugazza et al., 2018). exogenous phenomena can operate through mass Concerning glacier area changes, the geometry wasting action, melting and running water processes features most used to evaluate glacier shrinkage and and gravitative phenomena (Pelﬁni & Bollati, 2014). its magnitude, Maisch (2000) reported a general Moreover, the widening of glacier forelands often Alpine decrease of 27% from the mid-nineteenth reveals wood remnants crucial to reconstruct the century to the mid-1970s, and losses even stronger past glacial and climatic history (e.g., Pelﬁni et al., in some subregions of the Alps. 2014; St-Hilayre & Smith, 2017). The responses of the Glacier area data are generally available through environmental systems to the retreat of glacier ton- glacier inventories, suitable tools to investigate moun- gues are complex and with contributions from diﬀer- tain glaciation in a changing climate (Paul, Kääb, ent biotic and abiotic features. The newly exposed Maisch, Kellenberger, & Haeberli, 2004). In fact, gla- areas are fast changing sites (Staines et al., 2015) cier inventories should be carried out at intervals where paraglacial and periglacial processes have compatible with the characteristic response time of implications for environmental hazard and risk con- mountain glaciers (a few decades or less in the case of ditions (Mergili, Kopf, & Muellebner, 2012). These small glaciers), and the currently observed glacier latter are mainly due to the unconsolidated sediment down-wasting calls for frequent updates of inven- present at the glacier forelands (in some cases also tories (Paul, Frey, & Le Bris, 2011; Paul, Kääb, & containing heterogenic ground ice) and susceptible of Haeberli, 2007; Pfeﬀer et al., 2014). rapid modiﬁcations in relation to climate warming “The New Italian Glacier Inventory” published in thus inﬂuencing both geomorphic processes and sedi- 2015 represents an actual updated data base describing ment supply to the processes acting down valley the whole Italian glaciation (Smiraglia et al., 2015; (Bosson et al., 2015); furthermore melting water as Smiraglia & Diolaiuti, 2015). A ﬁrst comparison well as ground water may aﬀect depositional land- between the total Italian glacier area reported in this forms in areas of glacier retreat (Levy, Robinson, new inventory and the glacier coverage value from the Krause, Waller, & Weatherill, 2015) and proglacial past Italian national inventory (CGI-CNR, 1959, 1961a, lakes and water ponds develop and undergo to spatial GEOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND LANDSCAPES 73 and temporal variations (Geilhausen, Morche, Otto, representativeness, because the glaciers therein approx- & Schrott, 2012; Salerno et al., 2014) with also biolo- imate in size, morphology and shape the “mean Italian gical consequences (Sommaruga, 2015). The newly glacier” (see Citterio et al., 2007; Smiraglia et al., 2015). exposed areas show the beginning of soil develop- Moreover, the Bernina massif has been previously stu- ment (D’Amico, Freppaz, Leonelli, Bonifacio, & died by geologists, geographers, ecologists, botanists, Zanini, 2015; Egli, Wernli, Kneisel, & Haeberli, etc. for the peculiarity of the region mainly with respect 2006) both on sparse till deposits and on well- to its Swiss sector (see references cited in the following shaped moraine ridges (Kabala & Zapart, 2012); the paragraph) thus suggesting to analyse and describe the chrono-sequences at the glacier forelands also repre- Italian side as well. sent favourable substrates for biological colonization; these pristine areas show successions of: arthropods 2. The Bernina glaciers: main features and (e.g., carabides, Schlegel & Riesen, 2012) also delayed previous investigations by diﬀerent environmental factors (Brambilla & Gobbi, 2014; Gobbi et al., 2007), bacterial commu- The Italian sector of the Bernina group covering nities (Meola, Lazzaro, & Zeyer, 2014), yeasts about 60 km , is nested within the Municipality of (Turchetti et al., 2008), plants (e.g., Cannone et al., Chiesa Valmalenco (upper Valtellina, Lombardy), 2008; Moreau, Mercier, Laﬄy, & Roussel, 2006) and near the Italian-Swiss border. It is the mountain trees (Garavaglia, Pelﬁni, & Bollati, 2010, Garavaglia, group featuring the highest peak of Lombardy, Pelﬁni, & Motta, 2010). Punta Perrucchetti 4020 m asl, the last Italian peak In this contribution we summarized the ongoing before Bernina, 4049 m asl on the Swiss side. The (i.e., last 50 years) trend aﬀecting an important Alpine area is labelled as a “Site of Community Importance” glacierized group (namely, Bernina Group), character- (SCI), under the 92/43/EEC directive (ECC 92/43). ized by strong and accelerating glacier decrease and the Two SCIs are present here: they are named “Monte di consequent widening of the glacier forelands. Scerscen-Ghiacciaio di Scerscen-Monte Motta” (SCI The aims of this paper, after a brief review on the code: IT2040016) and “Disgrazia-Sissone” (SCI code: previous scientiﬁc researches carried out in the IT2040017), respectively, and they are managed by Bernina group, are: (1) to analyse in detail magnitude the Sondrio Province Authority. and rates of a) glacier areas decrease, and b) glacier Presently, about forty (40) glaciers are located in the forelands enlargement and, (2) to discuss implications Italian sector of the Bernina Group, covering altogether for landscape and human environment (including geo- an area of approx. 28 km ,with diﬀerent shapes, sizes heritage and social/economic/touristic activities). and morphologies (Figure 1, Table 1 where the coordi- The Bernina glacierized group (Lombardy Alps) was nates of each glacier are reported as well). chosen both due to the abundance of high quality aerial The size and features of Bernina glaciers are photos, useful to reconstruct the glacier history over the important, particularly when compared against last half century (i.e., 1954–2007), and due to its other mountain groups with similar elevation range. Figure 1. Location Map. The blue glacier boundaries described glacier limits in the 1954, instead the red outlines showed glaciers in the 2007. The base layer is the 2007 colour orthophotos (CGR BLOM). Scerscen Superiore, Scerscen Inferiore, Fellaria Est and Fellaria Ovest are the main glacier bodies of the Bernina group – Italian sector (4.92, 4.80, 4.85 and 4.35 km2, respectively, these glaciers are labelled as SS, SI, FE and FO, geolocation is reported in Tab.1). 74 C. D’AGATA ET AL. Table 1. The 41 glaciers we analysed (since they are common to all the database). The coordinates here reported are referred to the WGS84 System and describe the mean geographic location of each glacier. 2 2 2 2 Long E Lat N Area 1954 (km ) Area 1981 (km ) Area 2003 (km ) Area 2007 (km ) 564,208 5,132,243 Sassa d’Entova 0.08 0.05 0.01 0.004 563,439 5,133,163 Pizzo delle tre Mogge 0.16 0.13 0.11 0.08 565,177 5,133,396 Scerscen Inferiore 7.75 6.40 5.19 4.80 569,235 5,134,984 Scerscen Superiore 6.30 5.82 5.06 4.92 571,746 5,133,777 Fellaria Ovest 5.66 5.29 4.57 4.35 570,713 5,133,363 Marinelli 0.39 0.34 0.19 0.15 570,507 5,131,991 Caspoggio 1.09 0.72 0.38 0.33 573,234 5,133,837 Fellaria Centrale 0.13 0.15 0.06 0.05 573,364 5,135,156 Fellaria Est 5.51 5.48 4.99 4.85 575,574 5,132,441 Pizzo Varuna 1.42 0.97 0.22 0.07 562,596 5,133,081 Passo delle Tre Mogge 0.08 0.05 0.02 0.02 560,091 5,131,611 Sasso di Fora 0.16 0.13 0.08 0.05 555,874 5,131,923 Monte del Forno Nord Est 0.22 0.16 0.01 0.004 555,486 5,130,075 Monte Rosso Sud Est 0.19 0.12 0.02 0.004 555,879 5,129,943 Cima di Val Bona Nord 0.05 0.04 0.02 0.01 556,131 5,128,962 Vazzeda 0.62 0.46 0.32 0.27 555,838 5,128,308 Cima di Rosso Est 0.28 0.20 0.16 0.13 555,480 5,128,073 Cima di Rosso Sud Est 0.14 0.12 0.06 0.06 555,466 5,127,332 Sissone 0.94 0.83 0.60 0.60 555,681 5,126,635 Passo di Chiareggio 0.32 0.28 0.14 0.12 555,955 5,126,147 Punta Baroni 0.14 0.12 0.08 0.07 557,358 5,125,409 Disgrazia 2.90 3.14 2.44 2.25 559,065 5,125,839 Pizzo Ventina 0.17 0.16 0.12 0.11 558,729 5,125,085 Canalone della Vergine 0.61 0.49 0.40 0.35 559,287 5,124,334 Ventina 2.85 2.44 1.99 1.89 558,074 5,123,472 Cassandra Est 0.49 0.38 0.26 0.24 557,185 5,123,653 Preda Rossa 1.37 1.23 0.68 0.58 557,551 5,123,357 Corna Rossa 0.11 0.09 0.06 0.05 558,620 5,123,484 Cassandra Superiore 0.08 0.06 0.04 0.03 557,906 5,122,765 Cassandra Ovest 0.55 0.20 0.04 0.02 556,767 5,121,478 Corni Bruciati I 0.05 0.04 0.02 0.01 556,767 5,121,478 Corni Bruciati II 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.02 560,601 5,124,483 Pizzo Rachele 0.07 0.06 0.04 0.04 560,550 5,123,992 Sassersa 0.19 0.14 0.06 0.04 575,946 5,125,974 Pizzo Scalino 2.65 2.03 1.62 1.49 574,912 5,123,416 Cima Painale Nord Ovest 0.15 0.14 0.05 0.03 574,747 5,122,730 Pizzo Painale Sud Ovest 0.11 0.10 0.06 0.05 573,760 5,121,193 Corti 0.14 0.12 0.04 0.01 574,475 5,123,074 Pizzo Painale Nord Est 0.04 0.02 0.01 0.01 575,775 5,122,909 Passo di Val Molina 0.08 0.06 0.02 0.01 576,369 5,122,768 Cima di Forame Nord 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.02 TOTAL 44.37 38.82 30.32 28.18 Scerscen Superiore, Scerscen Inferiore, Fellaria Est glacier meteorology (Oerlemans, 2001; Oerlemans & and Fellaria Ovest are the main glacier bodies of the Klok, 2002; Oerlemans & Knap, 1998), and glacier Bernina group – Italian sector (4.92, 4.80, 4.85, and hydrology (Pellicciotti, Carenzo, Bordoy, & Stoﬀel, 4.35 km , respectively, see Figure 1 where these gla- 2014). ciers are labelled as SS, SI, FE, and FO, and Table 1 Investigations at glacier forelands were performed where the coordinates are reported as well). on the Swiss sector of the Bernina Group, with Previous studies on the Bernina massif, mainly a particular focus on weathering processes and soil performed in the Swiss territory, range from geology properties and development (Arnaud, Temme, & (e.g., Mohn, Manatschal, Beltrando, Masini, & Lange, 2014; Egli, Mavris, Mirabella, & Giaccai, Kusznir, 2012; Mohn, Manatschal, & Muntener, 2010; Mavris et al., 2010), clay mineral evolution 2011), to geomorphology (e.g., reconstructions of along soil chronosequences (Mavris et al., 2010), soil the Holocene changes and glacier history, Hormes, features which support plant colonization (Burga Muller, & Schluchter, 2001; Joerin, Stocker, & et al., 2010). In some cases, data from pollen and Schluchter, 2006; Pelﬁni, 1999; Pelﬁni & Smiraglia, macrofossil allowed reconstruction of glacier ﬂuctua- 1994; Pelﬁni, Smiraglia, & Diolaiuti, 2002), from tions and reforestation of the forelands at Bernina remote sensing (Bolch & Kamp, 2006), to ﬁeld gla- Pass during the Late glacial period and the ciology (e.g., measurements of terminus ﬂuctuations Holocene (Burga, 1999; Zoller, Athanasiadis, & and mass balance data, Comitato Glaciologico Heitz-Weniger, 1998). The most recent researches Italiano, Comitato Glaciologico Italiano, 1914–1977; have locally detected an upward shift of alpine plants 1978–2016), from glacier modelling (Frank & (Gian-Reto, Beißner, & Burga, 2005), the consequent Linsbauer, 2012; Klok, Greuell, & Oerlemans, 2003; increasing ﬂoristic similarity of mountain summits Klok & Oerlemans, 2002; Linsbauer, Paul, Machguth, (Jurasinski & Kreyling, 2007) and a shift of macro- & Haeberli, 2013; Zekollari And Uybrechts, 2015), to invertebrate assemblage along the longitudinal alpine GEOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND LANDSCAPES 75 stream gradients at the base of Roseg and Tschierva to describe features and characteristics of the glacier glaciers (Sertić Perić, Robinson, Schubert, & Primc, forelands we overlapped the 1954 and 2007 glacier 2015). Last but not least Fischer, Amann, Moore, and boundaries using as base layer the 2007 orthophoto. Huggel (2010), Frey, Haeberli, Linsbauer, Huggel, Then by visual inspection we investigated the areas and Paul (2010), Garavaglia, Pelﬁni, Bini, Arzuﬃ, abandoned by ice in the 1954–2007 time window and Bozzoni (2009), analysed the implications for evaluating the extent of: (i) exposed rock areas, (ii) hazard and risk conditions of changes in the land- unconsolidated sediments, and (iii) water ponds and scape and in particular they focus on: slope instability newly formed glacial lakes. This analysis permitted to phenomena, glacier lake formation, and debris ﬂow describe not only the extent and the enlargement fans, respectively. Finally, the Bernina landscape has rates of the glacier forelands but also their features. been considered also for peculiarities of its railway The area values we computed feature a ﬁnal plani- (the highest one of Europe) (Bebi, 2011; Boksberger, metric precision value which was evaluated according Anderegg, & Schuckert, 2011) and for the role it plays to Vögtle and Schilling (1999) and Minora et al. in promoting tourism in these areas. At the knowl- (2016). The area precision for each glacier was eval- edge of the authors of this paper in the Italian sector uated by buﬀering the glacier perimeter, considering of the Bernina Group no previous studies over long the area uncertainty (Linear Resolution Error or time frame (50 years or more) focusing on magnitude LRE). The LRE is generally considered as half the and rates of glacier changes and/or on expansion resolution of the image pixel, that is, in our case glacier forelands were performed. 0.5 m for the 2003 and 2007 imagines and 2.5 m for the 1954 and 1981 data. This error may be too low for debris pixels, because glacier limits are more diﬃcult 3. Data collection and methods to distinguish when ice is covered by debris (Paul et al., 2009). Therefore, we set the error for debris In order to evaluate glacier area changes for the pixels to be three times that of clean ice. The preci- whole Italian sector of the Bernina group over the sion of the whole Bernina glacier coverage was esti- last 50 years, we analysed aerial photos and ortho- mated as the root squared sum (RSS) of the buﬀer photos dating back since 1954 until 2007. We com- areas for 1954, 1981, 2003, and 2007: piled the 1954, 1981, 2003, and 2007 records by deﬁning glacier outlines upon the aerial photographs p N AE ¼ pi LRE (1) yr yr (1954 and 1981 stereo pairs) and the orthophotos i¼1 (2003 and 2007 digital colour images). where AE is the areal error of year (1954 or 1981 or yr The 2003 and 2007 data were obtained by manu- th 2003 or 2007), pi is the i glacier perimeter, LRE is yr ally digitizing the glacier boundaries upon registered the LRE of year (1954 or 1981 or 2003 or 2007), and colour digital orthophotos (named Volo Italia, 2003 N is the total number of glaciers in the record. and Volo Italia, 2007, by Compagnia Generale Finally, the total error in area change (AEarea Riprese Aeree – CGR (CGR 2003, 2007), featuring change 1954–1981, 1981–2003, 2003–2007, and a planimetric accuracy equal to ± 1 m). These ortho- 1954–2007) was then calculated as the RSS of the photos are purchasable products (distributed by areal errors related to each glacier in the 1954 and CGR), featuring a planimetric resolution speciﬁed 1981, 2003 and 2007 and 1954–2007 (Equation 2 by 1 pixel with size 0.5 m × 0.5 m. where we computed the RSS for the changes in the Concerning the 1954 and 1981 records, they were time window 1954–2007). obtained by analysing the stereo pairs (aerial photos at qﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ a scale of c. 1:20,000) with an optical stereoscopic sys- 2 2 AEarea change ¼ðÞ AE þ AE (2) 19542007 1954 2007 tem to obtain a 3D view of the glacierized area. Then, the glacier limits observed upon the photos were reported as polygons in a GIS environment. The 1:10,000 scale Technical Regional Map (CTR) of 4. Results Lombardy Region was used as a raster base. The topo- 4.1. Glacier area changes graphic data reported in the CTR are referred to the beginning of the Eighties of the past century, thus The Bernina glacierized area was 45.18 km in 1954 allowing the evaluation of the reliability and accuracy (50 ice bodies), 39.58 km in 1981 (54 ice bodies), 2 2 of our ﬁndings from the 1981 aerial photos. The plani- 30.58 km in 2003 (59 ice bodies), and 28.19 km in metric accuracy of the 1954 and 1981 data is ± 5 m. 2007 (49 glaciers) (Figure 2). The glacier area records (i.e., 1954, 1981, 2003 and Albeit the Bernina glaciers generally underwent 2007) we developed were compared together to eval- losses in area (losing the largest part of their tongues) uate both glacier shrinkage and forelands expansion an increase in their number was observed at times (i.e., in the period 1954–2007 and in the time windows 1954–1981 and 1981–2003). This increase is caused by 1954–1981, 1981–2003, and 2003–2007.Furthermore, fragmentation of previous larger glaciers, which 76 C. D’AGATA ET AL. Figure 2. Glacier area change (values are reported as km ) per size classes over time. generates smaller ones, and it is typical of the ongoing (Table 2) with areas over 0.1 km in 1954, only 17 deglaciation phase. A similar behaviour was reported, remained in 2007. for example, by Knoll and Kerschner (2009)for the To avoid inconsistencies like the apparent gain in Tyrolean glaciers (Eastern Alps) where more than smal- area for those classes that acquired more glaciers from ler 50 glaciers derived from the disintegration of pre- the larger classes than they lost to the smaller ones, the viously larger ones, and by Diolaiuti, Maragno, area change values plotted in Figure 2 were obtained by D’Agata, Smiraglia, and Bocchiola (2011) for Dosdè crediting the contribution of each glacier according to Piazzi glaciers analysed in the time window 1954–2003. the class it belonged to in 1954. Thus, the evaluations of In order to evaluate the area changes of Bernina area changes were not aﬀected by class shifts. glaciers we only compared the surface coverage of Considering these 41 common glaciers, the glaciers present in all the datasets. The records for Bernina glacierized area results 44.37 km ±0.7% 1954, 1981, 2003, and 2007 were considered, thus in 1954, 38.82 km ± 0.6% in 1981, 2 2 allowing to evaluate the evolution of 41 glaciers com- 30.32 km ± 0.3% in 2003, and 28.18 km ±0.3% mon to all the records and listed in Table 1 (with the in 2007 (Tables 1 and 3). The area changes between coordinates in the WGS84 System). To analyse in more depth the relations between glacier Table 2. Number of glaciers in the Bernina Group over time. size and area changes, the Bernina area data were ana- Number of Number of Number of Number of lysed by classifying the glaciers according to the following Size class glaciers in glaciers in glaciers in glaciers in 2 2 2 (km ) 1954 1981 2003 2007 size classes: < 0.10 km ,0.10–0.5 km ,0.5–1km , 2 2 2 2 < 0.1 10 11 22 24 1–2km ,2–5km ,5–10 km ,and >10km .These are 0.1–0.5 17 19 10 8 thesameasthose appliedinpreviousstudies upon 0.5–1.0 4322 1.0–2.0 3122 Lombardy glaciers’ shrinking (Citterio et al., 2007, 2.0–5.0 3335 2012b;Diolaiuti et al., 2012a, 2011) upon Adamello gla- >5.0 4420 Total 41 41 41 41 ciers’ variations during 1981–2003 (Maragno et al., 2009) and analysing Ortles Cevedale glaciers in the time win- dow 1954–2007 (D’Agata et al., 2014). Thesameclasses Table 3. Area coverage of glaciers in the Bernina Group over were initially introduced by Paul et al. (2004)for Swiss time. glaciers, were used by Knoll and Kerschner (2009)for Size class 1954 Area 1981 Area 2003 Area 2007 Area 2 2 2 2 2 (km ) (km ) (km ) (km ) (km ) analysing Austrian glacier changes and were used here to < 0.1 0.62 0.47 0.23 0.17 allow a proper comparison with the results therein. 0.1–0.5 3.51 2.87 1.57 1.25 0.5–1.0 2.73 1.97 1.37 1.24 Our data also underline that several glaciers have 1.0–2.0 3.88 2.92 1.29 0.98 shifted from the largest size classes to the smallest ones. 2.0–5.0 8.4 7.61 6.05 5.63 In fact, analysing glacier size distribution, it can be > 5.0 25.23 22.98 19.81 18.91 Total 44.37 38.82 30.32 28.18 noticed that in the Bernina group of the 31 glaciers GEOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND LANDSCAPES 77 Figure 3. Mean yearly area change (km /yr, y axis) evaluated in the diﬀerent time windows (see the legend) and considering the size classes (x axis). 2 2 2007 and 1954 were −16.19 km ±1.3 %(−36.5 % contribution the greater (area > 1 km ) glaciers of the area coverage in 1954), with a fastest rate in (which was 74.1%). the last period; in fact, calculating the mean rate it The largest glaciers (area > 5 km ) reduced their resulted: −0.206 km /y during 1954–1981, against area by 25.1%, and their loss represents c. 39.1% of 2 2 −0.387 km /y during 1981–2003, and −0.535 km /y the whole area retreat. during 2003–2007 (Figure 3). Considering the diﬀerent time windows of the ana- From Table 4 it is seen that during 1954–2007 lysis (i.e., 1954–1981, 1981–2003, and 2003–2007) one 2 2 glaciers smaller than 0.1 km lost c. 71.6% of their ﬁnds that the ﬁrst class (<0.1 km ) always considerably initial areas. However, this strong decrease accounts decreased with respect to its previous surface coverage for 2.7% only of the whole glacier area loss. In the 50- (by 24.5%, 50%, and 24.8% against the 1954, 1981, and year long period, glaciers with their area in the range 2003 area value), but still it contributed slightly to the 0.1–0.5 km lost c. 64.4% of the surface they covered total loss (always about 2.7%). Diﬀerently, the size in 1954, thus contributing for 14% of the whole area class >5 km was the most inﬂuent upon the overall loss. If we consider larger glaciers, like those in the reduction. The glaciers therein decreased by 8.9% dur- size class 0.5–1.0 km , they lost about 54.6% of their ing 1954–1981, by 13.8% during 1981–2003, and by surface, that is, 9.2% of the total glacier reduction. 4.6% during 2003–2007, with a contribution to the Glaciers in the class 1.0–2.0 km reduced their area overall loss of 40.6%, 37.3%, and 42.2% respectively. by 74.8%, and their loss represents c. 17.9% of the This behaviour is partially due to the diﬀerent whole glacier retreat. reaction times (sensu Hoelzle et al., 2003) character- Eventually, the contribution to the total area loss izing each glacier size-class. In addition it may be given by glaciers with area smaller than 1 km during linked to a shorter persistence of snow accumulation the period 1954–2007 was 25.9% (with respect to (Pelto, 2010) and is also inﬂuenced by the ongoing their total coverage in 1954), lower than the glacier morphological evolution (e.g., growing rock Table 4. The area changes of the 41 glaciers we analysed reported as percentage with respect to the size class change and the total area change. ΔA 1954–1981 ΔA 1981–2003 ΔA 2003–2007 ΔA 1954–2007 ΔA 1954–1981 as % with ΔA 1981–2003 as % with ΔA 2003–2007 as % with ΔA 1954–2007 as % with Size as % with respect to the as % with respect to the as % with respect to the as % with respect to the class respect to the total change respect to the total change respect to the total change respect to the total change (km ) size class value value size class value value size class value value size class value value < 0.1 −24.5 2.7 −50.0 2.7 −24.8 2.7 −71.6 2.7 0.1–0.5 −18.1 11.5 −45.5 15.4 −20.3 14.9 −64.4 14.0 0.5–1.0 −27.8 13.7 −30.7 7.1 −9.2 5.9 −54.6 9.2 1.0–2.0 −24.8 17.3 −55.9 19.2 −24.2 14.6 −74.8 17.9 2.0–5.0 −9.4 14.2 −20.5 18.3 −7.0 19.7 −33.0 17.1 > 5.0 −8.9 40.6 −13.8 37.3 −4.6 42.2 −25.1 39.1 Total −12.5 100.0 −21.9 100.0 −7.0 100.0 −36.5 100.0 78 C. D’AGATA ET AL. outcrops, tongue separations, formation of pro-glacial if glacial lakes and water ponds are occurring in the lakes, increasing supraglacial debris and collapse areas recently abandoned by ice. In this way, 143 structures down wasting processes) and the subse- parcels were detected at the snout of the 41 analysed quent positive feedbacks (albedo lowering, increasing glaciers. Sixty-one (61) parcels, totally 2.65 km wide, long wave radiation from rock outcrops, heat storage resulted made by bare rock exposures and eighty-two due to supraglacial water ponds) aﬀecting most gla- (82) parcels, altogether 12.02 km wide, were found ciers can act as drivers of the increasing reduction made by unconsolidated sediment, thus underling rates of recent years (Table 4). These results are that the 82% of the newly exposed areas are subjected consistent with those reported by Paul et al. (2004, to runoﬀ and meltwater actions and gravitative pro- 2007), Maragno et al. (2009), Pelto (2010) and cesses and represent unstable and potentially fast Diolaiuti et al. (2011), Azzoni et al. (2017, 2018). changing environments (Table 5). Several of these papers underlined that increased The one hundred and forty-three (143) parcels feature rock outcrops are key indicators of down wasting a wide range of size variability: the smallest ones were 2 2 and if these occur in the upper half-former accumu- found 0.0009 km and 0.0031 km wide, for bare rock and lation zone a temperate glacier is expected to not unconsolidated sediment (i.e.,: till deposits), respectively; 2 2 survive. the largest ones result 1.1843 km and 1.2225 km wide, for bare rock and unconsolidated sediment, respectively. Thesizeofthe newlyexposed areas resulted linearly 4.2. Evolution of glacier forelands related with glacier area and the widest rock and debris exposures occur at the snout of the biggest glaciers As regards the ongoing widening of glacier forelands (Figure 2). we evaluated the changes in their extent over time Moreover we also detected 18 water bodies varying and we analysed features and processes. their size from the maximum value of 0.052 km (found In the time window of our analyses the Bernina analysing the lake in the proglacial area of Scerscen glaciers abandoned an area of about 16.2 km ±1.3%. Inferiore glacier, see geolocation in Table 1)tothe mini- This glacier reduction results in both the exposure of 2 2 mum of 0.0003 km (featured by the Lake in the foreland outcropping rocks and nunataks (1.30 km ), in the of Pizzo Varuna Glacier, see geolocation in Table 1). The expansion of glacier forelands (14.67 km ), and in the 2 2 mean lake size is found equal to 0.015 km and altogether formation of glacial lakes and water ponds (0.17 km ). the18lakes coveranareaof0.17km . We focused our attention on the glacier forelands As regards the temporal evolution of such phenom- by analysing on the most recent orthophotos (2007 ena, from Figure 4. it can be noticed that the widest ﬂight) their features and in particular applying enlargement of the proglacial areas occurred in the a manual classiﬁcation of such areas to underline if time frame 1981–2003 (more than 50% of the total they show bare rock or unconsolidated sediments and Figure 4. Diagram showing the area abandoned by glaciers and then acquired by forelands in the time windows we analysed (1954–1981, 1981–2003, and 2003–2007). The purple bars indicate enlargement of areas abandoned by glaciers smaller than 2 2 1km , the green bars indicate increases of zones abandoned by glaciers in the range 0.1–0.5 km , the violet bars indicate areas 2 2 free from glaciers ranging from 0.5–1.0 km , the light blue bars indicate areas deglaciated from glaciers 1.0–2.0 km wide and the brown bars indicate areas deriving from retreating glaciers wider than 5.0 km . GEOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND LANDSCAPES 79 Table 5. Features of the glacier forelands analysed by visual inspection of the 2007 orthophotos. Number of Total coverage Total coverage Min parcel size Max parcel size Ave parcel size St deviation 2 2 2 2 2 Surface typology parcels (km ) (%) (km ) (km ) (km ) (km ) Bare rock 61 2.65 18.06 0.0009 1.1843 0.0434 0.1505 Unconsolidated sediment 82 12.02 81.94 0.0031 1.2225 0.1466 0.2077 Total 143 14.67 100.00 deglaciation) and the result is the same considering all 50% of the total deglaciation, see Figure 4) and the result the glacier size classes thus suggesting this period was is the same considering all the glacier size classes thus the most important in oﬀering new environments. suggesting this period was the most important in oﬀering Field investigations performed on some selected gla- new environments. cier foreﬁeld areas by the authors of this contribution Our results about glacier reduction are consistent suggested that whenever present, debris and unconsoli- with glacier retreat and warming trends highlighted in dated sediment at glacier forelands are generally thicker the last decades at mid-latitudes (Kaab et al., 2002; than 0.5 m and, in several cases, they reach 1 m of depth. Citterio et al., 2007;D’Agata et al., 2014; Diolaiuti Considering such depth values featured by the debris et al., 2012b, 2011; Knoll & Kerschner, 2009;Maragno layer mantling the 12.02 km of glacier forelands it gives et al., 2009; Paul et al., 2007, 2004). Results regarding a rock debris volume ranging from 0.006 to 0.012 km . glacier foreﬁelds widening are instead a novelty as This material is continuously reworked, transported and commonly such changes are not estimated. re-deposited by meltwater and runoﬀ, by gravitative pro- The results here support the idea that small gla- cesses and makes highly dynamic and fast changing these ciers with narrow altitudinal range are losing more of pristine areas. their area, also noted in other studies (Diolaiuti et al., An example of the changes occurred at the glacier 2012b, 2011; Kaser & Osmaston, 2002; Mark & fore ﬁelds is appreciable in Figure 5(a–d) where close- Seltzer, 2005; Racoviteanu, Arnaud, Williams, & up images are shown. Ordonez, 2008). This may be explained by ascent of the year round ablation zone in response to raising of the ELA under climate warming conditions (Kaser & 5. Discussion and conclusion Osmaston, 2002). In contrast, larger glaciers have a wider altitudinal range, with ELAs well below the The above reported data describing the recent retreat maximum elevation at the glacier head. of glaciers and the expansion of foreﬁelds in the Moreover, analysing glacier size distribution, it can Bernina group give clear evidence of the rapid and be noticed that in the Bernina group of the 31 glaciers accelerating climate change impacts aﬀecting the high (Table 2) with areas over 0.1 km in 1954, only 17 mountain environment and its surrounding. remained in 2007. This is critical since it is the smaller In fact, the analysis of Bernina glaciers here per- glacier sizes that have lost area proportionally the most. formed underlines a stronger reduction of glacier Extrapolations of developments documented by coverage over half a century as well as an increasing repeated glacier inventories (Kaab et al., 2002; Paul widening of proglacial areas. et al., 2004) and provided by numerical models The glacier area change between 2007 and 1954 was (Oerlemans & Knap, 1998) both suggest that the −16.2 ± 0.4 km (−36.5% of the area coverage in 1954). disappearance of several mountain glaciers is quite The glacier surface reduction is enhanced more likely a matter of few decades (Haeberli, 2008). Also recently; the area change during was −2.14 km in the Bernina glaciers could experience such ominous sce- period 2003–2007 (4 years, average value −0.535 km /y), nario if no meaningful changes will occur in the −8.51 km in the time window 1981–2003 (22 years, 2 2 climate trend. average value −0.387 km /y), and −5.55 km for the The ongoing glacier shrinkage and the consequent interval 1954–1981 (27 years, average value proglacial area widening, are changing in a deep way −0.206 km /y). the mountain landscape of Lombardy Alps (where the This glacier reduction results in both the exposure Italian side of Bernina Group is located), which are of outcropping rocks and nunataks (1.30 km ) and in expected ﬁrst to show features and landforms now the expansion of glacier forelands (14.67 km ) where visible within the Pyrenees (where the present glacia- proglacial lakes and water ponds are also present tion is the relict of the previous one and is formed by (0.17 km ). small cirque glaciers, see González Trueba et al., 2008) The 82% of the newly exposed areas were found made and, in a second phase to resemble the Apennines by unconsolidated till deposits thus making them subject (where only the Calderone Glacier can be found, actu- to meltwater actions, runoﬀ and gravitative processes ally classiﬁed as a debris covered glacieret together thus representing unstable and potentially fast changing with small snow ﬁelds, see Branda et al., 2010;Pecci environments. The widest enlargement of the proglacial et al. 2008). areas occurred in the time frame 1981–2003 (more than 80 C. D’AGATA ET AL. Figure 5. (a) Caspoggio glacier (570,507 E, 5,131,991 N): it is appreciable a newly formed lake in the glacier foreland, moreover unconsolidated sediment and a bare rock area (i.e., roche moutonée) are also visible in the ﬂat area which is strongly re-worked by meltwater. (b) Fellaria est glacier (573,364 E, 5,135,156 N): a proglacial lake is visible on the left hydrographical side, this was in the past (i.e., 1954) an ice contact lake; moreover also unconsolidated sediment re-worked by meltwater is present. A rock exposure (i.e., roche montonée) is also visible. (c) Fellaria Ovest glacier (571,746 E, 5,133,777 N): a newly formed lake is present in the glacier foreland area. Unconsolidated sediment reworked by melting water is also visible together with a wide ﬂat area featuring vegetation (shrubby and grass one) occurrence. (d) Pizzo Scalino glacier (575,946 E, 5,125,974 N): seven newly formed lakes are visible in the glacier foreland area. (e) Scerscen Inferiore glacier (565,177 E, 5,133,396 N): a newly formed lake is present, moreover also unconsolidated sediment and bare rock areas are visible. Geodynamically wise it is now occurring the transi- features of the newly exposed areas. Bare rock expo- tion from the glacial system to the paraglacial one sures (e.g., roches moutonneé, smoothed surfaces, (Ballantyne & Benn, 1994, 1996; Curry and etc.. . .) accomplish meltwater runoﬀ while unconsoli- Ballantyne, 1999). The areas where in the recent past dated till deposit are unstable and can be remobilized the main shaping and driving factors were glaciers are by running waters or by gravitative processes. now subject to the action of melting water, adding its Under such changing environmental features, the action to the runoﬀ one, slope evolution and dynamics new territories are available for plant and trees colo- and periglacial processes. Morphological changes nization as observed in the Ortles-Cevedale Group develop at diﬀerent rates in relation with shape and (Garavaglia et al., 2010), and at the Forni glacier GEOLOGY, ECOLOGY, AND LANDSCAPES 81 foreﬁeld where in the last years saples are germinat- Funding ing just very few years after the glacier margin retreat This work was supported by the DARA Presidenza del (Pelﬁni, unpublished data). Consiglio dei Ministri, Governo Italiano [COLL_MIN The melting of glaciers not only has obvious 15GDIOL_M];Sanpellegrino Spa Brand Levissima impacts on the surrounding ecosystems, but it [RV_LIB16GDIOL_M]. also has adverse consequences upon the value of the sites where they are located, in the context of natural and geo heritage. Heritage is an irreplace- ORCID able source of life and inspiration, it is human- G. Diolaiuti http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3883-9309 kind’s legacy from the past, with which we live in M. Pelﬁni http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3258-1511 the present and pass on to future generations (UNESCO, 2007). Also the GEO-Heritage (Bosson & Reynard, References 2012) properties could be exposed to the unfa- Arnaud, J. A., Temme, M., & Lange, K. (2014). Pro-glacial vourable eﬀects of changing climate and this is soil variability and geomorphic activity – The case of particularly the case of mountain glaciers, among three Swiss valleys. 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Pelﬁni & Bollati, 2014). Progress in Physical Geography, 42,3–23. In this context, our study can contribute to evaluate Ballantyne, C. K., & Benn, D. I. (1996). Paraglacial slope the impacts of glacier decrease on a fragile glacierized adjustment during recent deglaciation and its implica- areas, as the Bernina group, in term of impact on tions for slope evolution in formerly glaciated environ- landscape features and related shaping processes ments. In M. G. Anderson & S. M. Brooks (Eds.), Advances in hillslope processes (Vol. 2, pp. 1173–1195). (Bollati et al., 2017) and on geoheritage and geodiver- Chichester: Wiley. sity (sensu Bollati, Leonelli, Vezzola, & Pelﬁni, 2015; Ballantyne, C. K., & Benn, D. I. (1994). Paraglacial slope Eberhard, 1997; Gray, 2004; Zwolinski, 2004; Piacente, adjustment and resedimentation following glacier 2005; Reynard & Coratza, 2007; Serrano & Ruiz-Flaňo, retreat, Fabergstolsdalen, Norway. Arctic and Alpine 2007) or better geomorphodiversity. 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Geology Ecology and Landscapes – Taylor & Francis
Published: Jan 2, 2020
Keywords: Alpine glaciers; climate change impacts; glacier shrinkage; enlarging glacier forelands; remote sensing
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