Preliminary Recognition of Geohazards at the Natural Reserve “Lachea Islet and Cyclop Rocks” (Southern Italy)
Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, University of Catania, 95129 Catania, Italy
CRUST—Interuniversity Center for 3D Seismotectonics with Territorial Applications, 66100 Chieti, Italy
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Osservatorio Etneo, 95125 Catania, Italy
CUTGANA Centro Universitario per la Tutela e la Gestione degli Ambienti Naturali e degli Agro-Ecosistemi, University of Catania, 95123 Catania, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Pablo Peri
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1082; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031082
Received: 29 December 2020 / Revised: 14 January 2021 / Accepted: 18 January 2021 / Published: 21 January 2021
In this study, we present a preliminary recognition of geohazards at the natural reserve archipelago “Lachea Islet and Cyclop Rocks” by integrating infrared thermography (IRT) and morphological-aerial interpretation. The study area, located in the wider setting of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Mount Etna (eastern Sicily), is a worldwide renowned tourist destination suffering from a limited fruition due to the instability of rock masses. The peculiar setting of the area, represented by steep sea rocks and an islet, requires the employment of remote surveying methodologies for the preliminary slope characterization in the perspective of safe ground surveys. In this paper, IRT analysis allowed the recognition of signs of past rockfalls, as well as the presence of loose rock material likely laying in unstable conditions, thanks to the variation of the surface temperature characterizing the slope. The combination of IRT outcomes with morphological-aerial data allowed recognizing the potential source areas of future rockfalls, which were modeled through trajectory simulations. Results showed that a relevant strip of sea surrounding the studied sea rock could be crossed by falling blocks, suggesting the need of instituting a forbidden area for a safe fruition of the reserve. Furthermore, IRT allowed for the recognition of some peculiar features linked to the presence of tectonic lines. Such correspondence was validated by a comparison with literature structural data, proving the potential of such remote methodological approach. This represents a new aspect of the application of IRT to other fields of geosciences, thus representing a starting point for the scientific development of new technological branches.