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e-Journal

 

Venice and the Environmental Hazards of Coastal Cities
(Released December 2006)

 
  by Carolyn Scearce  

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Resources

Glossary

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Conclusion

Contents

Lagoons are spatially complex, temporally changeable environments. Over the course of Venice's history, its inhabitants have attempted to shape the Lagoon environment to their needs. However, human intervention within the lagoon has frequently resulted in unanticipated consequences. Diversion of the rivers to prevent the lagoon from filling in has reduced the levels of sediments necessary for building up salt marsh beds to make up for loss from erosion and subsidence. Attempts to make the water ways within the lagoon more accessible to navigation have also accelerated the rates of erosion. Nor is it possible to simply reverse these effects by trying to return the lagoon to its original state. In the years since the rivers have been diverted, river water has become too polluted to safely be returned to the lagoon. Cutting the lagoon off from sea waters may protect the city from flooding, but if the exchange between the lagoon and the sea is interrupted for more than very short periods of time, the lagoon will suffer. Continuous exchange is necessary to maintain oxygenated conditions within the lagoon and otherwise provide the conditions to allow lagoon species to survive.

No simple solutions can be offered to solve Venice's problems. This city, cradled in the heart of the lagoon, demonstrates humanity's fierce ingenuity to create the world in its own image. At the same time, it tests human limitations to try to invent a sustainable environment inside a habitat whose very nature is instability. Many of the factors that make coastal zone environments attractive places for human settlement also make them vulnerable to human activities. Coastal zone productivity, living resources, and its very waters are vulnerable to pollution, exploitation, and physical alteration. When dealing with complex systems, such as the interface between the land and sea, it can be difficult to anticipate all of the consequences of human action. For this reason, careful consideration should be taken from the lessons learned from coastal cites such as Venice.

© Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved, CSA

References

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