Carbonate mountain ranges surrounding volcanic centers in the Campania region of southern Italy are covered by discontinuous ash-fall pyroclastic deposits of variable thicknesses. The cover thickness and stratigraphy are relevant to hydrological controls on both rainfall-induced landslides and groundwater recharge. To improve understanding of the hydrologic regimes within the pyroclastic soil mantle, a hydrological monitoring station was installed upslope of a debris flow source area in the Sarno Mountains. Monitoring results demonstrate consistently unsaturated conditions, strong seasonal and inter-annual variations in pressure head, and delayed and damped dynamics at different depths related to rainfall and evapotranspiration patterns. Frequencies of recorded pressure head time series were analyzed to quantify the seasonal hydrological regime of the cover as a whole, as well as variations within individual soil horizons. For the whole ash-fall pyroclastic soil cover, variable seasonal frequencies of pressure head were recognized exceeding landslide alert and groundwater recharge threshold values. Analysis of frequencies for individual soil horizons showed a strongly delayed timing determining in winter and summer an opposite hydrological behavior between the shallowest and deepest soil horizons. A model that accounts for topographic variations in cover thickness and these hydrological regimes is proposed to quantify hydro-geomorphological controls on debris flows triggering and groundwater recharge. The model is based on the estimation of ash-fall pyroclastic soil thickness along slopes by the total thickness fallen in a given area and an inverse relationship with slope angle, allowing the assessment at the distributed scale over peri-volcanic mountainous areas. Moreover, it links the spatially variable thicknesses of ash-fall pyroclastic soils to the amount of soil water storage allowing the assessment of frequency of hydrological conditions leading to debris flow initiation and groundwater recharge.
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