Articles | Volume 17, issue 5
Research article
03 May 2013
Research article |  | 03 May 2013

Assessing hydrological effects of human interventions on coastal systems: numerical applications to the Venice Lagoon

C. Ferrarin, M. Ghezzo, G. Umgiesser, D. Tagliapietra, E. Camatti, L. Zaggia, and A. Sarretta

Abstract. The hydrological consequences of historical, contemporary and future human activities on a coastal system were investigated by means of numerical models. The changes in the morphology of the Lagoon of Venice during the last century result from the sedimentological response to the combined effects of human interventions on the environment and global changes. This study focuses on changes from 1927 to 2012 and includes the changes planned for the protection of the city of Venice from storm surges and exceptional tides under future sea level rise scenarios. The application of a hydrodynamic model allowed for the analysis of the morphological effects on the lagoon circulation, the interaction with the sea and the internal mixing processes. The absolute values of the exchange between the lagoon and sea increased from 1927 to 2002 (from 3900 to 4600 m3 s−1), while the daily fraction of lagoon water volume exchanged decreased. At the same time, the flattening of the lagoon and loss of morphological heterogeneity enhanced the internal mixing processes driven by the tide and wind, reducing thus the overall water renewal time from 11.9 days in 1927 to 10.8 days in 2002. Morphological changes during the last decade reduced the water exchange through the inlets and induced an increase of the basin-wide water renewal time of 0.5 day. In the future, Venice Lagoon will evolve to a more restricted environment due to sea level rise, which increases the lagoon volume, and periodical closure of the lagoon from the sea during flooding events, which reduces the communication with the open sea. Therefore, the flushing capacity of the lagoon will decrease considerably, especially in its central part. Furthermore, some considerations on the impact of the hydromorphological changes on the ecological dynamics are proposed.