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Geoindicators and their Practical Application: Workshop and Field Trip
Cordoba, Argentina, May 14-17, 2002


Earth science professionals interested in monitoring the effects of rapid geological change (<100 years) gathered recently in the central Argentine city of Cordoba to discuss the geoindicator approach. The aim was to discuss ways in which geoindicators can be applied in a wide range of natural settings and to provide guidelines to improve the tracking of rapid geological change in the region. The small group of highly qualified people came from various natural resource sectors, but with a predominance of professionals working in hydrology and groundwater. The meeting was sponsored by the IUGS Geoindicator Initiative (GEOIN) with support from the Geological Society of America, and was organized by the Asociacion Argentina de Geologia Aplicada a la Ingenieria (ASAGAI), which is the National Group of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment (IAEG). The local organizing committee was led by Jorge Bejerman (ASAGAI, Cordoba Highway Administration) with help from Alberto Rusculleda (National University of Cordoba) and Juan Arguello (ASAGAI). Many of the participants are interested in working with geoindicators as a tool for reporting the state-of-the-environment, assessing the environmental sustainability of a region (on local, national and international scale), or monitoring the environmental changes.

The workshop was opened with a brief welcome from Jorge Bejerman (ASAGAI), followed by Tony Berger (GEOIN) who outlined the philosophy of the geoindicators concept. Bejerman then outlined a proposal to set up a national network of geoscientists interested in the concept and to apply it in different parts of Argentina. Jonas Satkunas (Geological Survey of Lithuania and Co-Director with Berger of GEOIN) described practical applications of geoindicators in environmental monitoring system. He was also focused on the national and transboundary aspects of groundwater, pointing out that the Polish-Lithuanian cross-border aquifer is the first example of transboundary monitoring in the Baltic region and probably in Central and Eastern Europe. Antonio Cendrero (Cantabria University, Santander, Spain) reviewed the work of an extensive international research program (Euro-Latin American Network on Environmental assessment and Monitoring - ELANEM), which is developing quantitative indicators and indices of environmental quality in ten study areas with very different natural and socio-economic characteristics in seven countries of Europe and Latin America. John Ridgway (British Geological Survey) then discussed geoindicators related to streamflow, surface water quality and soil and sediment quality, drawing on many examples from the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Marek Graniczny (Polish Geological Institute) reviewed landslide geoindicators with reference to current monitoring programs in Poland. Raul Carreno (Peru) described current work on landslides in the Peruvian Andes. All the lectures were structured so as to demonstrate with actual examples the practical significance of the geological phenomena observed and how they influence the state of the environment.

The second day was mainly devoted to the presentations of the Argentine participants. Many contributions focused on groundwater. Ilana Arensburg (National Water Institute, Ezeiza) showed how groundwater levels in wells in Lomas de Zamora city, an important urban area in Buenos Aires province, vary primarily as a result of cessation of pumping and the importation of water from the Rio de la Plata River. Marcela Perez (with O. Tujchneider, M. Paris and M. D'Elia, National University of El Litoral) gave an assessment of aquifer systems in urban areas using as a geoindicator the potentiometric surface. In one case, where groundwater level is taken as the main indicator of aquifer, while in another, the mineral composition of the porous medium was related to groundwater quality. Ofelia Tujchneider (with M. Paris, M. D'Elia and M. Perez, National University of El Litoral) described geohydrological systems in the Argentine plains. In the Esperanza District of Santa Fe province, the analysis of both potentiometric surface and hydrochemical features, together with elements of geology, geomorphology, structures, etc, has led to the identification of key elements of the hydrogeological system that can be used as geoindicators.

A series of papers described work under the ELANEM program. Monica Blarasin (with A. Cabrera and E. Matteoda, National University of Rio Cuarto) reviewed groundwater geoindicators for the city of Rio Cuarto. Here the focus is on the implications of changes in levels and quality of groundwater for human health. Susana Degiovanni (with M. Villegas, N. Doffo, C. Eric, L. Caviglia, M. Azcurra and Y. Palma, National University of Rio Cuarto), described a network set up to monitor erosion processes, validate and update hazards maps, establish environmental change trends and explain cause-effect relationships in two segments of the Rio Cuarto river. An ELANEM project to develop a methodology to measure and compare environmental quality was reviewed by Jorge Gimenez (with M. A. Hurtado and M. G. Cabral, National University of La Plata). This is producing indicators and indices of environmental quality in the basin of Carnaval-Martin streams of Buenos Aires province.

Other contributions ranged quite widely. Graciela Arguello reviewed the extensive body of research at the National University of Cordoba on climate change, soil genesis and soil evolution. The application of geoindicators to land readjustment and sustainable urban planning was discussed by Candido Bordeaux Rego Neto (Insitute for Urban Planning, Florianopolis, Brazil). Franco Francisca (National University of Cordoba) presented a discussion of non-destructive geophysical techniques to evaluate groundwater and soil quality, and a proposal for indicators using geopotential analysis as an aid to municipal planning was presented by Gabriel Tognelli (National University of San Luis).

Armando Massabie (National University of Buenos Aires) described geoindicators associated with neotectonic faulting in the Sierras Pampeanas of central Argentina. His work suggests that geological features such as changes in fluvial channel pattern, associated with regionally important active faults can be regarded as geoindicators of neo-tectonism. Jose Sayago (National University of Tucuman) focused on the spatial and temporal dimensions in geoindicator assesment in NW Argentina. He gave two examples of changes in land occupation in response to increase rainfall in the period 1970-1990. One is related to changes in the fluvial dynamics and deltaic sedimentation in the Rio Hondo dam (Santiago del Estero province), and the other deals with the influence of increasing rainfall during deforestation of almost 500,000 ha in the former Chaco Forest (Tucuman province).

The field trip on the third day followed the roads to the Punilla Valley, to the west of Cordoba. The first stop, at San Roque dam, exposed a problem with landslides near the dam, and the contamination of reservoir by algae. At the second stop participants observed the contamination of the Cosquin River primarily by waste from an abandoned uranium mine upstream. The final stop concerned erosion geoindicators near La Cumbre city.

On the last day of the workshop, there was a vigorous discussion of how geoindicators might be applied to environmental monitoring in the region. A major outcome was a proposal to organize a national and regional network of Argentine geoscientists and environmental professionals to further disseminate the understanding of the geoindicators approach.

Participants in the courtyard of the Provincial Historic Museum "Marques de Sobre Monte", where the workshop was held.

 © Geoindicators Initiative GEOIN