Activities 2017
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Presentation and Objectives

The Physical Geography research group is comprised of a diversified set of investigators with training and research interests on the impacts of environmental dynamics on landscape change as these affect the Earth’s crust in its interfaces with the atmosphere, the biosphere and the hydrosphere.

Centering its interests in the national territory as a whole and more specifically in northern and central Portugal, research is focused in the elaboration of Master’s and PhD thesis and on the development of projects specifically aiming for better understanding the biophysical space. Applied research, trying to answer the problems of a sudden changeable society related to environmental systems (natural resources, environmental impacts, natural risks) is also a strong objective of this group. The investigation is developed in 4 main guidelines, each one with specific objectives:

A. Geomorphology, climatology and hydrological dynamics in Portugal

In addition to studies of fluvial, granitic and karst Geomorphology, particular relevance is given to studies on the costal platform and its evolution, as well as the erosive phenomenon that vigorously affects the Portuguese center-north coast.

From a theoretical point of view, the integration of different studies will be looked in order to perfect the models that have been constructed to explain the quaternary evolution (tectonic, eustatic, climatic and paleo-environmental), and also the study of geodiversity issues, as a resource for the sustainable development at local and regional scales.

Aiming for a better understanding, the importance of air and water in natural dynamics was given particular importance into climatic studies on a regional level (synoptic climatology) and hydrological studies (particularly on the karst environment).

B. Ecological dynamics of the landscape

The evolution of forests in Portugal during the last centuries is the pivotal point of this research. The agricultural land abandonment, in the center-north of Portugal is a strong reason for new studies in a scope of land-use changes. The composition of Laurissilva (a typical forest of the Madeira Island) and its last variations are being studied, centering the efforts in the topoclimatic conditions.

C. Natural hazards and risks in Portugal

By trying to synthesize different sectorial studies in Physical Geography and their social and applied use, arose the desire in the group members to proceed with work on natural hazards and risks. For the period considered the objectives contemplated the analysis of geomorphologic, climatic and hydrological processes, the identification of the anthropogenic activities as important factors of unchaining disasters, vulnerability analysis, risk assessment and mitigation, and crisis management. Particular attention was given to studies of social vulnerability to natural risks, using statistical methods of factor analysis. Hazards, vulnerabilities and risk cartography involving GIS architectures are a strong toolbox to achieve all of these objectives.

D. Physical supports for land planning

Looking for an answer to the appeals coming from different institutions, applied research is promoted, concerning the main biophysical aspects of support systems to human activities. Attention is also given to the construction and evolution of territories and how they deal with natural resources consumption, environmental problems and land use restrictions. Using the GIS expertise of team members, several technical advices have been developed and several works were performed in the analysis of natural hazards, geo-archeology and territorial management.

We tried to continue to encourage the involvement of researchers in thematic groups created by spontaneous initiative. Thus, besides the four major thematic guidelines, a structure in small groups was encouraged to facilitate the promotion of research, to promote joint initiatives and to realize the link between researchers from different universities who work on the same topics. For example, last year it was approved the creation of the DYNAT Group (Natural Dynamics, Modelling, Evaluation and Mapping) and in this year the KARST Group was created.

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