Introduction to The Glacier Inventory of Aosta Valley Region - Catasto ghiacciai

Aosta Valley is an alpine region, characterized by the presence of numerous peaks above 4000 m a.s.l., an average altitude of 2100 m a.s.l. and over 50% of the territory located at altitudes above 1500 m a.s.l.

In high altitude terrain we can distinguish two different environments: glacial environments, directly affected by the presence of glaciers, and periglacial environments, which, although not necessarily in contact with glaciers, are characterised by cold-climate and frozen ground.

Glaciers are very crucial elements of the high altitude landscape, both in terms of areal extension and influence. The Aosta Valley region, with around 3.6% of its territory covered by glaciers, is the Italian region with the largest glacial area, and despite not being precisely quantifiable even greater is the extension of the periglacial environments.

In addition to being a distinctive element of the landscape, glaciers have been and still are the main shaping agent of the Aosta Valley landscape and society. Their cycles of advances and retreats have always strongly affected life in the mountains: from invasion of high-altitude pastures to the accessibility of mountain passes, from the spatial and temporal availability of water to floods and avalanches, from infrastructures destruction to folk tales. Still nowadays, the Aosta Valley regional planning has to take into account the presence of glaciers. In fact, on one hand, glacial processes can, from time to time, generate situations of hydrogeological risk capable of affecting infrastructures or inhabited areas located on the valley floor. On the other hand, glaciers are a highly valuable water resource, with a large impact in water supply and production of hydroelectric energy.

Furthermore, due to their landscape relevance, glaciers have lately become an important tourist attraction and a hinge of the local economy. In addition, from a scientific point of view, the annual and historical evolution of glaciers is a key indicator of climate variations and, therefore, the subject of numerous national and international research initiatives.

The Glacier Inventory of the Aosta Valley Region is the result of a joint project between the Dipartimento programmazione risorse idriche e territorio, and Fondazione Montagna sicura - Montagne Sûre, and today it collects the most up-to-date information on glacial and periglacial environments of the regional territory.

The Glacier Inventory Geoportal includes three information layers rich in data regarding:

  • actual and historical glacial systems;
  • glacial lakes;
  • rock glaciers.

Each layer includes a cartographic section, which illustrates the location of the elements in the Aosta Valley area, and database containing detailed data and information.