Geology, soil and seismic risk

Activities of the Geological, seismic and soil survey

An intimate understanding of the physical makeup of our territory – above and below the Earth’s crust – is an essential requisite for territorial planning, as well as for efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, prevention and mitigation of natural risks and the safety and wellbeing of the population. The Geological, Seismic and Soil Survey (SGSS) of Emilia-Romagna Region is a technical body which was established in 1976 with the mission of supporting regional policies relating to the environment and territorial planning. Supporting the Region, the Basin Authorities and the Provincial and Municipal authorities of Emilia-Romagna, we produce geological, pedological and geo-thematic maps and develop databases to assist territorial and urban planning activities. The SGSS surveys and collects, organizes and shares data and knowledge relating to the geology, soil, coast, geosites, landslides, springs, groundwater of the plain and seismic microzonation.

Today the Survey’s remit encompasses seismic risk reduction and strategic monitoring of a number of natural risks (salt water intrusion in aquifers, subsidence, sea storm surges, landslides) with a view to mitigating any impact on the territory and the population; it is also tasked with the identification and study of natural resources (water, soils, geothermal energy, mineral resources). This knowledge is essential for building up cognitive frameworks and for implementation of National and European directives and laws. Our work is predominantly directed at technicians within the Public Administration, professionals (geologists, pedologists,architects, engineers, building surveyors, agronomists),businesses, the academic world and research institutes,and all other parties operating on the regional territory.

Basic knowledge

Mid eastern peaks The geological and soil surveying of Emilia-Romagna, which began in the ’70s, can today be considered completed and all the data related to basic cartography, at the various scales, has been collected and organized in a Geographic Information System. These maps are constantly updated thanks to close collaboration with regional and provincial services operating in the agro-forestry, environmental and soil defence sector. All the maps, both basic and thematic, are available on the SGSS website and can be consulted using web-gis – Geographic Information Systems (GIS) published on the web – and thematic sites with maps that can be consulted using Google Earth.


Geological and geo-thematic mapping

Basic knowledgeInvolving 50 young geologists, 7 universities and 2 institutes of Italy’s National Research Council, the study geological structure of the region of Emilia-Romagna began with the geological survey of the hill and mountain areas at 1:10.000 and proceeded with the survey of the plain at 1:25.000. The Emilia-Romagna Apennines are documented in 360 maps, 160 of which are currently available in print. As part of the National Geological Cartography Project (CARG project) maps to scale 1:25.000 and 1:50.000 have been compiled.

Visit webgis cartography

(italian language)

Starting with this wealth of resources, the SGSS has developed numerous applied research projects and geo-thematic maps. Some examples are:

  • The structural-geological map of the Emilia-Romagna Apennines (scale 1:250.000);
  • The Master Plan on Geo-environmental Hazards (scale 1:250.000);
  • The seismo-tectonic map (scale 1:250.000);
  • Landslide inventory maps (scale 1:10.000 and 1:25.000) and the contribution to the Inventory of Italian landslides (IFFI project);
  • Landslide hazard map for Civil Defence purposes (scale 1:25.000 and 1.250.000)
  • Seismic microzonation maps
  • The new “sea use maps” and thematic cartography of the sea and the coast
  • Research projects for the identification of raw materials


Soil mapping

Soil mapsIn 1975 Emilia-Romagna regional authority launched a soil survey campaign covering the entire region with three levels of mapping: 1:250.000, 1:50.000 and 1:10.000.

Maps are available both in printed and digital format and can be consulted at:

Cartography on soil

Website on Soil (italian language)

As well as constantly updating soil maps, the SGSS remit extends to several other activities, including: the National Pedological Map (1:250.000); the integration, at European and national level, of soil mapping survey methods and definition criteria for the relative databases; the pedo-geochemical mapping of the Emilia-Romagna alluvial plain; the development of tools for analysis and forecast of soil erosion in hill and mountain areas; the definition of ground water resources and collaboration with other regions in activities coordinated by the European Soil Bureau (USB-JRC) aimed at harmonizing European pedological data.

In addition, a Map of Soil Use Capacity for agricultural-forestry purposes and for rural land management has been compiled.


Geological database

The geo-database contains all the data of the Geological Map in scale 1:50.000 (CARG project) that are organized on the base of the recommendations of Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA). In addition, a database has been set up for the geological map in scale 1:10.000 of the hill and mountain areas within the region. Thematic databases have been also established to support the maps of the area pertaining to the alluvial plain.

Furthermore, the geo-database includes data related to:

  • geological sections and geognostic testing of the plain
  • Landslides inventory maps
  • archaeological database (useful for dating the superficial stratigraphic units of the plain)
  • piezometric level and groundwater quality of the plain
  • springs and geological units containing aquifers
  • geological heritage and geosites
  • trail network
  • register of natural cavities


Soils database

The soil database contains information on regional soils expressed according to the three available levels of mapping (1: 10.000, 1: 50.000, 1: 250.000). It is currently configured as a geographic information system, which are related to each other numerous archives, both alphanumeric (database) and geographical (GIS). The database contains among other around 33000 sampling points collected for the construction of soil maps and data from laboratory analysis (chemical, physical, mineralogical, micromorphological).

In addition, the database contains data created by other institutions (regional agriculture survey, research institutes, public administration) as:

  • approximately 59,000 geo-physical-chemical analyzes performed between 1979 and 2011;
  • agronomic experiments conducted in farms performing primarily measures physical and hydrological and agronomic tests;
  • measurements of the groundwater level hypodermic (2-3 meters below the surface).


Sea-Coast Information System

Sand duneThe Sea-Coast Information System (SIC) has been developed to support the Integrated Coastal Zone Management process of Emilia-Romagna Region and its planning and defence strategies. The SIC has been designed referring to the guidelines issued by European Commission within EUROSION programme. It contains the most relevant topics needful to extract the physical parameters relevant for coastal characterization and risk evaluation respect to coastal erosion and sea flooding. Most important dataset describing the physical coastal system, such as topography, bathymetry, geology, geomorphology, sedimentology, coastal defence etc, have already been collected, whereas the topics concerning economic assets or environmental characters are going to be implemented. The strictness in data georeferenziation, geometry correction and metadata compilation allows the simultaneous use of a number of informative layers potentially infinite, making the system particularly suitable for data comparison and intersection in GIS environment for multidisciplinary approaches. A lot of spatial data are in 3D format, allowing a more suitable application to modelling.

In 2012 a new sea use geodatabase has been developed by the Geological Seismic and Soil Surveys (SGSS) as integration of the Information System of the Sea and Coast. This database includes data related to the main activities that take place at sea (fisheries, defense, navigation, ports, oil exploitation and mining of sand, restrictions) and concerning the marine area between the shoreline and the limit of continental platform (which coincides with the Italy-Croatia delimitation line), situated at a distance of about 65 km from the coast.


For a safer environmentFor years now, Emilia-Romagna Region has been working to improve its understanding of natural risks and how to forecast, prevent and mitigate them. We too are involved in this activity through in-depth studies that analyze criticalities of physical systems and establish the key monitoring indicators of the natural risk under scrutiny. The Survey today focuses largely on: hydro-geological risk, subsidence, salt water intrusion in aquifers, coastal erosion, fluvial and coastal flooding, soil erosion, soil sealing, soil quality and seismic risk.

Working closely on a daily basis with ARPA, the Regional Agency for the Protection of the Environment and the Regional Civil Defence Agency, we produce early hydro-geological warnings essential for forecasting landslides and instability and marine weather warnings with forecast impact of storm surges.


  • hydro-geological risk
  • subsidence
  • salt water intrusion in aquifers
  • coastal erosion and flooding
  • soil: erosion, sealing, quality


Seismic riskThe SGSS coordinates technical-scientific activities for implementation of Regional Law on seismic risk reduction “Norme per la riduzione del rischio sismico” and manages national financing programmes for the implementation of safety measures for public and private buildings.

On the technical front we coordinate seismic microzonation studies: a consolidated tool for the prevention and reduction of seismic risk, especially when adopted right from the earliest urban planning stages. On the operative front, the Survey is involved in seismic monitoring of school buildings and public buildings of strategic use for Civil Defence purposes; in relation to seismic emergencies the Survey takes part, at regional and National level, in surveying of damage and assessment of structural safety.

For an efficient use of the natural resources

Brochure 2012The capacity of our region to assess, manage and protect some of the key natural resources in Emilia-Romagna is dependent upon the knowledge system acquired across the region by the SGSS. We produce, manage and process data relating to: water, soils, mineral resources, geothermal

energy, subsurface resources, the sea, geological heritage and the landscape.

Thanks to this rich heritage of knowledge, the Region is fully prepared to meet the new European challenge which has identified efficient use of resources as one of seven points forming the basis of the Europe 2020 strategy


For an Earth sciences culture

PublicationsKnowledge of the environment is our common heritage and the Public Administration has a duty to educate the population about such matters. We are committed to a campaign of knowledge-sharing and popularization of Earth Sciences through specific products and activities. Through such efforts, we endeavour to raise society’s awareness of the “environment as our collective heritage” in order to support management choices and encourage individual behaviour guided by respect for the environment and responsible use of natural resources and to spread a culture of geological hazard prevention.


The SGSS is committed to an information campaign, for both public administration technicians and professionals, on the use of geological and soil maps, thematic maps derived from these and their applications. The SGSS organizes numerous conferences and seminars which provide the public administration and research bodies with a forum for comparison and discussion on Earth Science related matters, both at national and international level. Among these, the "European Congress on Geoscientific Cartography and Information Systems ", organized in partnership with the Geological Surveys of Bavaria and Catalonia, become an established international meeting.


The SGSS strives to educate the public at large through the website and several other media, including:

  • maps of geological-environmental itineraries
  • documentary videocassettes on the soil and landslides
  • the creation of special trails aimed at educating the public on the most interesting geological aspects of Emilia-Romagna
  • publication of a series of books entitled "Water and Earth (Acqua e Terra)", on the main geo-environmental themes
  • publication of a series of information leaflets on the work of the SGSS.
  • Promotion of the geological heritage of the region.


For an European dimension

Logo EuregeoThe Geological, seismic and soil survey of Emilia-Romagna has always promoted exchange of knowledge, methodologies and approaches between the various players of the national and international geo-scientific community. Since 1992 we have been working in tandem with the regional surveys of Bavaria and Catalonia, with EuroGeoSurveys and the European Commission to organize the European Congress on Regional Geo-Scientific Cartography and Information Systems, now at its seventh edition. We have stipulated memorandums of agreement with the geological surveys of Hungary, Holland and Morocco for specific projects. At European level, the Survey has taken part in a number of projects and represents the Italian regions within the EuroGeoSurveys.





version 2012     Brochure: Geological,seismic and soil survey

(edition 2012)

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last modified 2022-09-08T17:21:37+02:00
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