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Alpine Hydrology of the Brenta Dolomites

Active Dates: Current
Participants: Matt Becker and Italian Colleagues
Support: Province of Trentino, Italy and U.S. Fulbright Commission

High-altitude alpine karstic systems often develop in highly fractured carbonate rock. The complexity of the fracture network leads to an equally complicated surface and subsurface drainage system. Rainfall, snow melt, and glacial melt water move quickly through karstic rock, often discharging at streams many kilometers away and providing an important source of drinking and irrigation water for local communities. In the Trentino Region of the Brenta Dolomites (NE Italy) karstic springs supply about 50% of the water to local aqueducts.

Alberto Bellin and Fabrizio Zanotti near Brenta Current Weather Station with Alimonta Rifugio in Background

Matt Becker at the University at Buffalo, Alberto Bellin and Fabrizio Zanotti at the University of Trento, and Andrea Borsato at the Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, in Trento, and their collaborators are studying this system by monitoring precipitation, surface drainage, and subsurface flow in caves. Florescent dyes are being used to understand the residence time of water in the karst conduits. Surface sink locations have been mapped and their influence on drainage mapped using high resolution LIDAR digital elevation models.

Matt Becker adds Fluorescent dye (tinopal) to sinkhole Perspective view of study site with location of mapped sinks A stream fed almost entirely by the Brenta karst drainage

Work continues at this site in Summer of 2008. We plan to conduct additional tracer experiments and expand our capacity to monitor drainage by adding instrumentation.