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Hydrologic impacts of landslide disturbances: Implications for remobilization and hazard persistence

September 13, 2017

Landslides typically alter hillslope topography, but may also change the hydrologic connectivity and subsurface water-storage dynamics. In settings where mobile materials are not completely evacuated from steep slopes, influences of landslide disturbances on hillslope hydrology and susceptibility to subsequent failures remain poorly characterized. Since landslides often recur at the site of previous failures, we examine differences between a stable vegetated hillslope (VH) and a recent landslide (LS). These neighboring hillslopes exhibit similar topography and are situated on steep landslide-prone coastal bluffs of glacial deposits along the northeastern shore of Puget Sound, Washington. Our control hillslope, VH, is mantled by a heterogeneous colluvium, supporting a dense forest. In early 2013, our test hillslope, LS, also supported a forest before a landslide substantially altered the topography and disturbed the hillslope. In 2015, we observed a clay-rich landslide deposit at LS with sparse vegetation and limited root reinforcement, soil structures, and macropores. Our characterization of the sites also found matrix porosity and hydraulic conductivity are both lower at LS. Continuous monitoring during 2015-2016 revealed reduced effective precipitation at VH (due to canopy interception), an earlier seasonal transition to near-saturated conditions at LS, and longer persistence of positive pore pressures and slower drainage at LS (both seasonally and between major storm events). These differences, along with episodic, complex slope failures at LS support the hypothesis that, despite a reduced average slope, other disturbances introduced by landsliding may promote the hydrologic conditions leading to slope instability, thus contributing to the persistence of landslide hazards.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Hydrologic impacts of landslide disturbances: Implications for remobilization and hazard persistence
DOI 10.1002/2017WR020842
Authors Benjamin B. Mirus, Joel B. Smith, Rex L. Baum
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Series Number
Index ID 70190755
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center

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