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Prolonged influence of urbanization on landslide susceptibility

March 21, 2023

Landslides pose a threat to life and infrastructure and are influenced by anthropogenic modifications associated with land development. These modifications can affect susceptibility to landslides, and thus quantifying their influence on landslide occurrence can help design sustainable development efforts. Although landslide susceptibility has been shown to increase following urban expansion, the long-lasting effect of urbanization on landslide susceptibility remains largely unquantified. Hence, susceptibility maps developed based on inventories from non-urbanized areas may incorrectly evaluate the hazard in urbanized areas. To quantify this effect, we analyzed a landslide inventory from southwestern Pennsylvania, where the pulse of urbanization occurred more than a decade before the inventory was created. Using road density as a proxy for urbanization, the study area was divided into urbanized and non-urbanized areas. Susceptibility patterns were computed using statistical analyses of a post-urbanization landslide inventory together with maps of topographic, land cover, and geologic factors. A pre-urbanization landslide inventory was used as a control. Our findings indicate that urbanization has a decades-long effect on landslide susceptibility, where urbanized areas are generally more susceptible to landslides. In urbanized areas landslides are strongly associated with distance from roads and topographic curvature, whereas in non-urbanized landslides are strongly associated with stratigraphic formation and distance from streams. The consistent differences in susceptibility patterns between urbanized and non-urbanized areas indicate that urbanization has a long-lasting effect on landslide susceptibility and that susceptibility estimates should be made separately for these different environments to account for the persistent influence of urbanization.

Publication Year 2023
Title Prolonged influence of urbanization on landslide susceptibility
DOI 10.1007/s10346-023-02050-6
Authors Tyler Rohan, Eitan Shelef, Benjamin B. Mirus, Tim Coleman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Landslides
Index ID 70241783
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center