Second International Conference on Debris Flow

pcr2.jpg18 - 20 June 2008
The New Forest, UK


DebrisFlow08.jpgThe 2nd International Conference on Monitoring, Simulation, Prevention and Remediation of Dense and Debris Flows took place recently at the New Forest Campus of the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT).  The Meeting was co-chaired by Professor Daniele De Wrachien from the University of Milano, Professor Carlos A Brebbia from WIT and Professor Mario Lenzi from the University of Padova.  The Conference was co-sponsored by the European Society of Agricultural Engineers (EurAgEng) and the International Commission of Agricultural Engineering (CIGR).

Due to the increased frequency with which debris and hyper-concentrated flows occur and the impact they have both on the environment and on human life, these extreme events and related processes have attracted increasing attention from research groups, land planning and management professionals.

The Conference provided a forum for engineers, scientists and managers from laboratories, industry, government and academia to interchange knowledge and expertise in the field of dense and hyper-concentrated flows.  A full understanding of these phenomena leads to an integrated risk management approach which provides means for preventing a hazard turning into a natural disaster.

The Meeting was opened by Carlos Brebbia who explained the importance of these conferences for the work of the Wessex Institute.  Conferences like these open new research possibilities and increasing links with the international community.  WIT acts as a mechanism for international technology transfer and is always open to new avenues for collaboration.


 Eminent Scientist Award

debris2.jpgCarlos then referred to the outstanding career of his colleague and Co-Chairman of the Conference, Professor Daniele De Wrachien.

Daniele De Wrachien is Full Professor of Irrigation and Drainage at the University of Milano.  He graduated in Geography at the same University and obtained there a PhD in Advanced Applied Geology.

In 1967, he was appointed at the Department of Agricultural Hydraulics of Milano University, subsequently becoming lecturer in Geopedology, Associate Professor of Irrigation and Drainage and Full Professor in 1986.

As Executive Officer of well-established regional and world-wide scientific and Professional Associations, Daniele has been actively involved in the organisation of 40 international events, performing the roles of Convenor and invited keynote speaker.  They were held in about 15 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and America.  He has collaborated with WIT in several important meetings, publications and research proposals.

In his capacity as the President of Eur Ag Eng (European Society of Agricultural Engineers), he established links of close cooperation between that Society and numerous like-minded international organisations, among which it is worth mentioning ICID (International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage).

Daniele is the author of more than 150 publications in all areas of soil and water phenomena, such as irrigation, draining, flow and transport processes, crop water requirements, water resources use and management, soil erosion and conservation, using both advanced laboratory and field observation techniques and mathematical simulation models. His research is now focused mainly on complex spatial patterns of the environment, with attention given to the spatial variability of hydrological characteristics.

Following this introduction, Carlos awarded to Daniele De Wrachien the ‘Eminent Scientist’ Medal of the Wessex Institute for his outstanding achievements in the field of engineering sciences.  The Medal, which has been awarded since 1985 to renowned scientists from all over the world is also a testimony to the high ethical and Professional standards of all awardees.

Prof De Wrachien expressed his appreciation for the award and spoke of the support of the European Society of Agricultural Engineers and the International Commission of Agricultural Engineering for the Meeting.

 Special Sessions


The Conference started with two Special Sessions organised by Prof De Wrachien and Mario Lenzi on “Sediment Transport and Debris Flow, including woody debris”.  It consisted of seven papers, as follows:
  • “Research development on debris flow, large flow and flash flood in the dolomites” by F Comiti, University of Padova
  • “Sediment transport monitoring in a Northern Puglia Watershed” by F Gentile, University of Bari, Italy
  • “Relationships among basin area, sediment transport mechanisms and wood storage in mountain basins of the Dolomites (Italian Alps)” by M Lenzo, University of Padova, Italy
  • “Large wood and flash floods: evidence from the 2007 event in the Davea basin (Slovenia)”, by L Picco, University of Padova, Italy
  • “Dam break shock waves: a two-phase model for mature and immature debris flow”, by S Mambretti, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
  • “Comparison between computational codes in debris flow modelling; a cast study in the Dolomites”, by V D’Agostino, University of Padova, Italy
  • “Role and management of in-channel wood in relation to flood events in Southern Andes basins”, by L Picco, University of Padova, Italy

 Conference Sessions and Keynote Addresses

debris5.JPGOther sessions in the conference were on:
  • Debris flow modelling
  • Debris flow mitigation
  • Modelling and monitoring
  • Landscape studies
  • Case studies
The Meeting was enhanced by two keynote addresses by well known scientists:
  • “Infrasound measurements of debris flow” by J Hubl, University for Bodenkultur, Vienna, Austria
  • “Verification of a 2D finite element debris flow model using Bingham and Cross rheological formulations” by R Garcia-Martinez, Florida International University, USA.


A field trip took place during the second day of the Conference.  The delegates visited the site of a recent landslide and current coastal engineering works at Lyme Regis, Dorset.  That is an area where significant sea cliff recession has taken place during the last few years.  Of particular concern is a slip surface that has opened up in May 2008 and which happened in the proximity of an old dump.  Concerns are expressed regarding the liquid seeping from the old landfill site.

 Conference Dinner

debris7.JPGThe Conference dinner took place at Rhinefield House, a well known New Forest landmark.  The house built in a neogothic style is only 100 years old but it has the appearance of a castle.  Major attractions are the beautifully landscaped gardens and a number of rooms done in a variety of styles.  They include an impressive entrance hall with a roof resembling the Great Hall of Westminster, rooms in Italian and French styles, a wood panelled restaurant with a carving on the mantelpiece depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  The most unusual room is called The Alhambra Room which is decorated in the gesso work resembling the famous palace in Granada.  The standard of the cuisine was excellent.

Carlos thanked the delegates for participating in the banquet and referred them to the appropriate pages of the new edition of the New Forest book which describes in some detail the history of the house.

 Piano Recital

debris9.JPGThe delegates enjoyed a piano recital by Pier Paolo Strona, a friend of the Wessex Institute of Technology over a number of years.  Pier Paolo, who until recently, worked as a Senior Researcher at Fiat Research Centre in Torino, is an accomplished concert piano as well as an excellent photographer.  His connection with WIT dates from the time that he was involved in Structural Analysis and started to use some of the codes developed by Carlos and his staff.  He graduated as an Engineer at the Politecnico di Torino and as a Musician at the Philharmonic Academy of Bologna.  He has given numerous piano recitals and has recently published a major book entitled “Musicological Studies on Goldberg Variation of Bach” where he relates that music to mathematical and nature patterns as well as to architectural and landscape shapes.

His interest in photography has resulted in five books and he has contributed to most of the photographs in the new edition of “The New Forest” book written by Carlos.  In addition, he prepared a CD for WIT containing some selected pieces, entitled “Music from the New Forest”.

The recital at the Conference contained pieces by JS Bach, Gurdjieff, Gershwin PDQ, Bach, Chopin, Joplin and Beethoven; resulting in a variety of different styles and types of music.

The recital was well received by the appreciative audience.

 International Scientific Advisory Committee


debris8.JPGA Meeting of the International Scientific Advisory Committee of the Conference took place during the meeting to discuss reconvening the event in 2010.  The topics of the Conference were discussed, as well as the preparation of an edited book on Dam Breaking with contributions by well known colleagues.  The feeling was that the 2008 Conference has been highly successful in terms of quality of presentations and discussions.

The Conference was very successful in terms of quality of presentations and discussions.  The book is now being distributed throughout the world and the papers are also archived in the Wessex Institute Library.

 Publicaton of Papers

The proceedings of Monitoring, Simulation, Prevention and Remediation of Dense and Debris Flows II, 240pp (ISBN: 1-84564-118-4) are available in hard back from WIT Press priced at £79/US$158/€118.50. Orders can be placed by telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223, fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the WIT Press web site at:

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as volume 60 of WIT Transactions on Engineering Sciences (ISSN: 1743-3533). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at:

Patagonia a forgotten land – from Magellan to Peron, by C.A. Brebbia,  384 pp (ISBN 978-1-84564-061-3) is available in hard back from WIT Press, priced at £33/US$59/€49.50.  Orders can be placed as above.

The New Forest: A Personal View, by C.A. Brebbia, 128pp (ISBN 1-84564-145-0) is available in hard back from WIT Press, priced at £27/US$54/€40.50.  Orders can be placed as above.