Open-air Laboratory


OAL Italy consisted of three sites: Panaro River, an OAL to test solutions against floods, Volano Beach, an OAL to test solutions against storm surges and coastal erosion, and Po di Goro, an OAL to test solutions against salt intrusion.

Po Valley (Panaro river, Comacchio valleys, Reno, Emilia Romagna coastal area)

Volano Beach
This Open-Air Laboratory is located in the Po di Volano Natural Reserve (Northeast coast of Italy), specifically in the Volano Beach. The Volano beach is a fully natural area, which is part of The Po Delta Biosphere Reserve. Close to the Po river delta, this spot features a rich natural heritage with vegetated dunes and coastal pine forests. Exposed to storm surges related to the Sirocco wind, this low-lying, sandy beach suffers frequent marine floods and coastal erosion that threaten both the ecosystem and the local community, reliable on farming and tourism. An artificial dune is being constructed as natural barrier between sea and land. The aim of this OAL is to mitigate storm surges and coastal erosion.

 Panaro River
The river Panaro is a tributary of the Po river and flows for its greatest part in the province of Modena (north Italy) with a basin covering a surface of 1775 km2. The OAL aims at mitigating the risk of flooding related to soil erosion on the internal toe of the riverbank which can possibly trigger local or global collapse mechanisms.

 Po di Goro
The Po di Goro is located in the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve in the northern part of the Emilia Romagna coast. The Po delta presents a unique identity and biodiversity with ecosystems ranging from coastal sand formations, lagoons, fishing ponds, marshes, fossil dunes, coastal pine forests, brackish wetlands to cultivated land. Tourism together with agriculture and fish farming constitute the main economic activity of local communities. During times of low river flow, salt intrusion reaches far upstream damaging fragile ecosystems. Planting halophytes with the capability of absorbing salts and keeping them inside their cells will support local adaptation.

Motivation for choice according to hazard exposure and asset value

  The delta of Po river is representing the transition between the river and the sea, and has therefore different hydraulic, morphological and biological characteristics
  Flooding, droughts, coastal erosion, potential storm surge
  Economic engine for Italy (agriculture fisheries, food, manufacturing)
  Biodiversity is at risk (UNESCO protected areas)

Possible nature-based and hybrid solutions

  Seeding of deep rooting plants for river-bank reinforcement
  Debris usage to reduce subsidence
  Enhancement of biodiversity
  Filtration strategies to reduce eutrophication and preserve water quality
  Promote practices to reduce water usage, promoting alternative crops
  Artificial dunes and marine seagrass

For more information, you can visit the interactive pages with elaborated details and solutions for each OAL-Italy site:

Our partners


Across the world, we are facing challenges like disaster risk everyday. Some of us are living in areas where disasters are very likely. Which challenges are you facing in your area? Flood, landslides, coastal erosion, drought, something else?


The fear of flooding is a major perceived risk. Floods affect many areas, such as agriculture, infrastructure, local businesses as well as the tourism sector. To deal with the risk of flooding, OPERANDUM has implemented multiple Nature-based Solutions.


Coastal Erosion & Storm Surges

Coastal erosion is the loss of land along the shoreline due to the natural removal of sediments or bedrock from the shoreline. It is often associated with extreme weather events such as coastal storms, storm surge and flooding.


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