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This paper deals with channel evolution over the past 200 yr in 12 selected streams in northern and central Italy and aims at reconstructing the evolutionary trends (e.g., trends of channel width and bed elevation) and understanding the causes of channel adjustments. The selected streams have been studied using various sources and methods (historical maps, aerial photographs, topographic surveys, and geomorphological surveys). The selected rivers have undergone almost the same processes in terms of temporal trends; however, the magnitude of adjustments varies according to several factors, such as original channel morphology. Initially, river channels underwent a long phase of narrowing (up to 80%) and incision (up to 8–10 m), which started at the end of the nineteenth century and was intense from the 1950s to the 1980s. Then, over the last 15–20 yr, channel widening and sedimentation, or bed-level stabilization, have become the dominant processes in most of the rivers.

Different human interventions have been identified as the causes of channel adjustments in Italian rivers (sediment mining, channelization, dams, reforestation, and torrent control works). Such interventions have caused a dramatic alteration of the sediment regime, whereas effects on channel-forming discharges have seldom been observed. Some notable implications for river management and restoration are (1) the state of rivers before major human disturbances and channel adjustments can rarely be taken as a reference, as at present rivers are far from their pristine condition; and (2) sediment management is and will be a key issue in such fluvial systems.

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