NATURAL HAZARDS RESEARCH CENTER. The Center lies in the Subcarpathians of Buzau, a region with a critical environment, high relief dynamics and high human pressure, all of which justify the epithet of ´natural laboratory´. The area belongs to one of the most active seismic units in Europe, also recording an elevated mean specific erosion rate. Observations have in view the present-day geomorphic processes, topoclimatic particularities, modifications in the structure and composition of the plant cover and the effects of land use changes on landscape dynamics. Human geography investigations in the rural area, with highlight on the social and economic impact of the transition period are important as well.
Its activity, started in 1968, had in view in-depth research of phenomena in a region strongly affected by present-day geomorphological processes. The first years were devoted to the complex geographical knowledge of the Patarlagele Depression and the surrounding hills (about 300 sq.km), focusing on the agents responsible for the present dynamics of the relief and their influences on the land-use.
The average annual amount of precipitation is of 550-650 mm (increasing at the contact with the mountains); they have a torrential character in summer. The region corresponds to the belt of beech forests (Fagus sylvatica) alternating with durmast forests (Quercus petraea), but the slopes are mostly deforested.
In the southern part of the Patârlagele Depression (the Manastirea Lunca area), where Villafranchian gravels are predominant, the gully erosion prevails. The rest of the studied territory is affected by mass movements of the most varied forms. Extreme events (such as abundant precipitations or strong earthquakes) play a major part in reactivating the mass movements. Under these circumstances, it is but natural that the mean suspended load discharge should register the highest values in Romania (over 25 t/ha.year). The values are 43 t/ha.year and 56.5 t/ha.year in the Slanicul Buzaului basin and close to it in the Calnau basin, respectively.
As a result of our researches during the first years, the geomorphological map (at the scales 1:25,000 and 1:10,000) and the map of the present-day relief modelling processes have been elaborated. Since 1969 we have passed on the selecting some experimental plots for the study of landslides, mudflows, falls and gully erosion processes. Investigations in the test basin of Valea Muscelului, focus on the suspended load transport, the formation mechanism of high floods and the sources of suspended load.
Peculiar attention has been given to the influence of extreme events (heavy rainfalls, strong earthquakes) on relief modelling. Simultaneously, investigation of the topoclimate, soils, vegetal cover and animal world have been carried out. Starting from 1975, researches of human and economic geography of the whole region and of some representative samples have been performed. As a result some samples of morphodynamic maps and an original methodology for the mapping of the natural environmental potential have been worked out.
After 1990 a new research programme was set up. Apart from the geomorphological aspects, much of the research was concentrated on land use, land-cover changes, the role of vegetation on landslide slopes and on the hydrological aspects of small catchments.
Assessment of erosion processes is based on stationary and itinerant measurements. The findings have shown the important role played by various types of rock and land use in the development and evolution of erosion processes.
In order to estimate the share of various types of land use, rocks and soil, G.I.S. techniques have been applied, the results being used to work out a general territorial outline.