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J Environ Manage. 2016 Jan 15;166:357-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.10.022. Epub 2015 Oct 30.

Platform of integrated tools to support environmental studies and management of dredging activities.

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ISPRA - Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Loc. Brondolo, 30015 Chioggia, Italy. Electronic address:
ISPRA - Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Via Brancati 60, 00144 Rome, Italy.
DHI, Via degli Operai 40, 16149 Genova, Italy.


Dredging activities can cause environmental impacts due to, among other, the increase of the Suspended Solid Concentration (SSC) and their subsequent dispersion and deposition (DEP) far from the dredging point. The dynamics of the resulting dredging plume can strongly differ in spatial and temporal evolution. This evolution, for both conventional mechanical and hydraulic dredges, depends on the different mechanisms of sediment release in water column and the site-specific environmental conditions. Several numerical models are currently in use to simulate the dredging plume dynamics. Model results can be analysed to study dispersion and advection processes at different depths and distances from the dredging source. Usually, scenarios with frequent and extreme meteomarine conditions are chosen and extreme values of parameters (i.e. maximum intensity or total duration) are evaluated for environmental assessment. This paper presents a flexible, consistent and integrated methodological approach. Statistical parameters and indexes are derived from the analysis of SSC and DEP simulated time-series to numerically estimate their spatial (vertical and horizontal) and seasonal variability, thereby allowing a comparison of the effects of hydraulic and mechanical dredges. Events that exceed defined thresholds are described in term of magnitude, duration and frequency. A new integrated index combining these parameters, SSCnum, is proposed for environmental assessment. Maps representing the proposed parameters allow direct comparison of effects due to different (mechanical and hydraulic) dredges at progressive distances from the dredging zone. Results can contribute towards identification and assessment of the potential environmental effects of a proposed dredging project. A suitable evaluation of alternative technical choices, appropriate mitigation, management and monitoring measure is allowed in this framework. Environmental Risk Assessment and Decision Support Systems (DSS) may take advantage of the proposed tool. The approach is applied to a hypothetical dredging project in the Augusta Harbour (Eastern coast of Sicily Island-Italy).


3D numerical modelling; Dredging management; Dredging plume mapping; Environmental effects; Magnitude, duration and frequency of SSC variation

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