In 2018 I have been awarded an Emergences grant from the City of Paris, Bureau de l’Innovation for a project entitled “Shifting Shores: An Environmental History of Morphological Change in Mediterranean River Deltas over the Twentieth Century.” The project, funded until 2022, builds upon my previous and ongoing work on rivers and coast to investigate the environmental history of morphological changes of deltaic coasts.
Coasts concentrate nowadays a large proportion of the world’s population, as well as key infrastructure and economic activities, from tourism to industry. The settlement of the coasts over the twentieth century has been possible through the continued attempt at stabilizing their configuration. Coasts, however, remain among the most unstable physical features of the planet and are nowadays menaced of submersion by sea level rise. Nowhere these contradictions are more evident than in river deltas. Over the twentieth century, deltas have been increasingly exploited and consequent attempts at stabilizing their morphology have multiplied. Over the same period, however, many deltas have also started retreating and subsiding. Why has this happened? The project seeks to answer this question by reconnecting the history of river’s and the history of delta’s engineering, via the analysis of social and natural alterations to the sediments (sand and gravel) transported by rivers to deltas. This project will focus on three comparable deltas of the Mediterranean: the Po (Italy), the Rhone (France), and the Ebro (Spain) river deltas and combine historical methods, sources and approaches with those of fluvial geomorphology.