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Popular Science: Man and nature are connected vessels

All of us are aware that humankind tries to preserve cultural heritage. However, how can geomorphologists contribute? Every significant site and building is established in a specific environment. Natural processes at the site are very important for us and are worth watching. This is a reason why the LACUNHEN scientific network was founded. The Faculty of Science is member of it, specifically Vít Vilímek from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology.


A broadened scope and inter-disciplinary approach are frequently used words in the scientific world these days. LACUNHEN (LAndslides and CUltural & natural HEritage), an organization which is registered in the ICL (International Consortium on Landslides), was established in a similar spirit. The goal is to research geomorphological conditions and threats at important sites and their surroundings.

Charles University in Prague is in one of eight core members of the network. Our university participates with the others and also with research institutions from all over the world. The organization focuses on a few cultural heritage sites where there is a possibility of geomorphological threats. These sites may suffer from catastrophic processes, or also from long-term cumulative factors, for example the impact of a sandstorm on building stone, ground subsidence, climate change.

LACUNHEN is monitoring these sites, which are discussed at conferences, workshops and field trips: Vardzia monastery in Georgia, Petra in Jordan, Buddha’s statues and the Shahr-e-Zohak fortress in Bamyan, Afghanistan, Machu Picchu and the Huascaran National park in Peru.

Unstable structures are monitored in Petra and in Vardzia. Petra has a catastrophic scenario that if some trigger will occur, for instance heavy rain or an earthquake, then part of Petra may be destroyed. A monitoring station focusing on more than 800 points in the rock block has been installed. In Bamyan the largest statues of Buddha in the world have been preserved, though they were unfortunately damaged considerably by the Taleban in 2001. Monitoring and rehabilitation is now taking place. The Shahr-e-Zohak fortress is endangered by erosion; it needs an adequate drainage system to collect runoff. Machu Picchu is situated in an area of prehistoric rock-slides. It seems to be stable for now but at any time a trigger could cause a catastrophic scenario. The last site is the Huascaran National park. The danger is connected with climate change. It can cause unstable slopes or glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs).

Scientists are important for cultural heritage because they try to research all of these threats. LACUNHEN is supported by a lot of international organizations, the most important of which is UNESCO.

MARGOTTINI C., VILÍMEK V. (2014): The ICL Network on 'Landslides and Cultural & Natural Heritage (LACUNHEN)'. Landslides. Vol. 11, Issue 5, p 933-938.



Published: Jul 19, 2016 05:00 PM

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