Land Cover Analysis for Evapotranspiration Assessment in Catania Metropolitan Region

Land Cover Analysis for Evapotranspiration Assessment in Catania Metropolitan Region

Paolo La Greca (University of Catania, Italy), Daniele La Rosa (University of Catania, Italy), Francesco Martinico (University of Catania, Italy) and Riccardo Privitera (University of Catania, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1924-1.ch007
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Today, the contraction of green zones is a key issue for land use planning with relation to climate change effects on urban areas. Furthermore, the loss of evapotranspiring surfaces and vegetated soils is one of the main consequences of urban sprawl processes. The authors present the case of Catania metropolitan area, the 2nd most populated urban region in Sicily. In particular, three municipalities are analyzed, as they present the most relevant urban sprawl processes. Inside this complex “urban jam,” there are still large non urbanized spaces. These patches (cultivated and abandoned agriculture land and lava fields from Mt. Etna), deeply fragmented, are often left for future development. These areas are particularly important in the examined context, considering the lack of green spaces for ecological functions and leisure. This chapter focuses on land cover analysis based on land use maps and oriented to assess evapotranspiration degree of the different land uses. Land use categories have been geographically sampled, and eight land cover types have been extracted with GIS by photo interpretation of high resolution orthophotos. Other sets of geodatabases have been used, including vectorial/raster cartographies and field surveys. Results from this evapotranspiration assessment can be useful for addressing land use planning of non urbanized areas within a sprawled metropolitan area, identifying new forms of agriculture, leisure, and environment protection.
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The Study Area In Catania Metropolitan Region

The case study here presented is the most urbanized area within the conurbation of Catania (Italy) and it includes the municipalities of Mascalucia, Tremestieri Etneo and Gravina di Catania (Figure 1), a settlement system characterized by a considerable amount of urban sprawl. Considering the 27 municipalities included in the official designation of the Metropolitan Area, the total population grew more than 27% in forty years (1961 – 2001), while the main city lost 16% and the other 26 municipalities increased of 107%. In 2001, about 57% of total population lived outside the main city. This process is continuing in recent years: in 2008 this percentage grew over 60%.

Figure 1.

The study area of the municipalities of Mascalucia, Tremestieri Etneo, and Gravina di Catania, within Catania Metropolitan Area (Italy) highlighted in grey


The three municipalities considered in the study area are small agricultural towns on the volcano slopes that have been absorbed into the expanding metropolis. In the late 19th century they had slightly more than 6000 inhabitants and they cover about 2700 hectares, with an height range from 200 m to almost 700 m a.s.l.

Economy once oriented to agriculture productions (wine and oranges), was completely swiped out, first, by holiday houses developments in the 1960 -1970s. In the following 20 years these houses became stable dwellings and in 2008 the population of the three municipalities reached the total of more than 77000 inhabitants.


Land Use Mapping

A land use map did not exist so far for this area, excluding large scale European maps (Corine Land Cover maps), not suitable for the objectives of this study. Consequently, the first step has been the construction of a apposite land use map. Land uses have been identified on the basis of available data: the vector cartography (1: 10000) produced by regional authorities, municipal vector cartography (1:2000), recent high resolution ortophotos (2007-2008). Field surveys have been conducted to identify the most recent changes. Land use geographic database has been built as ArcGis personal geodatabase, where land use patches have been manually drawn by photo-interpretation of the recent orthophotos. Borders of patches have been matched to vector cartography features (streets, walls, property borders, etc). The minimum mapping unit was 250 square meters.

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