Prof dr Paolo Billi
International Platform for Dryland Research and Education Arid Land Research Centre, Tottori University, Japan
University of Ferrara, Dipartimento di Fisica e Scienze della Terra, Ferrara, Italy
1976: Laurea degree (equivalent to MSc) in Geological Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Florence, Italy.
1980: CNR fellow (equivalent to PhD) on “River dynamics and sediment transport processes”, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Florence, Italy.
1980 – 1998: Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Florence, Italy.
1998 – 2016: Professor of Physical Geography and Geomorphology, Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, University of Ferrara, Italy.
2017 – present: Specially Awarded Professor, International Platform for Dryland Research and Education, Tottori University, Japan.
Main research topics
Fluvial geomorphology, Sediment transport, Soil erosion and sediment yield, Gully erosion, Human impact on river hydrology and geomorphology, River response to climate change, Climate change, land degradation and desertification in the Horn of Africa, River paleohydrology, Sedimentology of fluvial deposits.
Research, scientific collaboration, teaching, university cooperation programs and field investigations in a number of countries, including: Argentina, Belgium, China, Denmark, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, UK, USA
Author of 230 publications, 93 of which on international journals and edited volumes.
International Platform for Dryland Research and Education (IPDRE) was established in January 2015 to develop research and education focusing on drylands and developing countries. The IPDRE is involved in several research projects dealing with sustainability and environment protection in different arid land of the world, including Mongolia, China, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Thailand Kenya, USA. Main research topic investigated include: soil salinization, Aeolian dust, soil erosion, drought tolerant cultivations, irrigation and water resources management, climate change and human health, rural development. The IPDRE research staff consist of scientists from all over the world and host several PhD students.
I am currently involved in a very large, five years long, research project, coordinated by Prof. Atsushi Tsunekawa, in the upper Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia: “Development of next-generation Sustainable Land Management (SLM) framework to combat desertification”. To achieve the project research goals, six representative small catchments were selected and more than 40 experimental plots were installed. On the six rivers and the experimental plots a number of parameters, such as rainfall, runoff, soil loss, soil moisture, flow discharge and suspended sediment transport are monitored in the field. Effects of climate change on soil erosion, water resources and sustainability are the main research topics.
Current research activities
- Investigation of gully geomorphic parameters and medium term evolution in Ethiopia. Gully erosion is a very severe problem in Ethiopia leading to vast areas of land degradation. The research aims include the identification of the geomorphological conditions for the gully formation and how the gully geometry changes through time in relation to local soil and rainfall and land use factors.
- Bedload transport measurement in three representative rivers outflowing in the Adriatic Sea around the town of Ravenna. The main study aim is to investigate the role of river sediment supply and sediment transport to beaches that have been experiencing severe degradation and retreat throughout the last decades with very negative repercussions on the tourist economy, in spite of the financial resources invested in an attempt to control the fenomenon. The threshold condition for bedload entrainment observed in the field are analysed and compared with those predicted by classical criteria. The bedload transport rates measured in the field are also tested against the predictions of six bedload equations among the most renown in the literature. The dune migration method to predict bedload transport rates is also investigated.
- Geomorphology, sedimentation and processes of ephemeral streams. This study deals with the geomorphological characteristics, channel dynamics and river response to landuse and climate change in drylands The magnitudes of flash floods and their effect on channel width changes, and the role of riparian vegetation in river bank resistance were investigated for two representative dry rivers in the Raya graben (northern Ethiopia). In the same area, the reasons for the increased frequency of high floods resulting in fatalities and property dame, are investigated. For this purpose and increase in sedimentation, caused by the abandonment of soil conservation measures and the small size of the bridges along the main road were considered as possible main causes that induced also channel migration with cultivations destruction. Other research topic include a study on dryland, ephemeral meandering rivers geomorphology, the differences with perennial rivers of more humid areas and an attempt to explain why meandering rivers form in arid environments where conditions are more favourable for the development of braided rivers.
- A preliminary study on the global change effect on Italian rivers hydrology was carried out considering the hydro-meteorological data of 23 rivers distributed across the Italian territory and whose catchments cover almost 40% of it has been carried out in order to verify the occurrence of temporal trends and their rates of change. First results indicate a decreasing trend for precipitation, runoff, maximum discharge and discharge exceed 10 days a year. These results depict for Italy a framework of substantial decrease of water resources and sediment transport capacity.
- I am editor of a Springer book on the Landscapes and landforms of the Horn of Africa and, other than the editing activity, I am reorganizing some unpublished field data to produce a few book chapters about the geomorphology and processes of the Samoti Plain in the Eritrean Danakil, the fluvial landscape of ephemeral streams in Somaliland, the climate change and human impact on the increased frequency of devastating floods of the Wabe Shebele river and the role of tectonics in influencing the structure of the river networks in Eritrea.
Scientific collaboration with colleagues and institutions of Montenegro.
My first collaboration with colleagues from Montenegro dates back to 2010 when I participated in a study on land resilience in Montenegro, using repeat photography, coordinated by Prof. Jan Nyssen of Ghent University in Belgium, and the collaboration of Dr. Velibor Spalevic and Dr Milic Curovic. Since then I have co-authored several papers and conference presentations with Dr. Spalevic and other Montenegrin colleagues such as Milic Curovic, Goran Barovic, Dusko Vujacic, just to cite some of them. I also published a paper on steep mountain streams in the scientific journal “Agriculture and Forestry”, printed in Montenegro. I made field visit Montenegro, under the leadership of Dr. Spalevic, in 2014 and 2015 with two colleagues of my former Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, Univeristy of Ferrara, Italy. My Italian colleagues and I discovered a very beautiful country, with almost untouched landscape, especially in the inland and the mountainous areas. In the coastal area the fast urban growing is posing some problems of beach and environmental conservation that would deserve to be investigated in greater detail, whereas the inland part of the country offers favourable conditions to investigate interesting research topics related to the effect of climate change on soil erosion, river processes and water resources conservation. Having in mind the perspective of conducting joint research projects in collaboration with research and academic institutions of Montenegro, two bilateral agreements were signed in 2015 between my former University of Ferrara in Italy and the University of Niksic and with the Institute of Hydrometeorology and Seismology of Montenegro in Podgorica.
The next step is to strengthen the collaboration between Ferrara (my former University), myself (Tottori University) and the Montenegrin partners within the framework of an European or bilateral (at Ministry of Foreign Affairs level) research project to investigate important environmental issue mainly related to the beach preservation and protection from flooding and to the analysis of the climate change and human impact effects on river sediment yielded to the costs and to the river water resources.
I am Editorial Board member of the International journal Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Montenegro.
I was a member of Scientific Commute of the Green Room Sessions 2018 International GEA (Geo Eco-Eco Agro) Conference that was arranged in the period 1-3 November 2018, in Podgorica, Montenegro. I am a member of Scientific Commute of the GEA International (Geo Eco-Eco Agro) Conference that is planned for 28-31 May 2020, Podgorica, Montenegro.