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Vegetation as a driver of temporal variations in slope stability: The impact of hydrological processes

Kim, JH; Fourcaud, T; Jourdan, C; Maeght, JL; Mao, Z; Metayer, J; Meylan, L; Pierret, A; Rapidel, B; Roupsard, O; Rouw, A; Villatoro, M; Wang, Y; Stokes, A.

Geophysical Research Letters. Volume 44, Issue 10 28 May 2017 Pages 4897–4907 (Papers in refeered scientific journals)


Although vegetation is increasingly used to mitigate landslide risks, how vegetation affects the temporal variability of slope stability is poorly understood, especially in earthquake-prone regions. We combined 3-year long soil moisture monitoring, measurements of soil physical properties and plant functional traits, and numerical modeling to compare slope stability under paired land uses with and without trees in tropical, subtropical, and temperate landslide- and earthquake-prone regions. Trees improved stability for 5–12 months per year from drawdown of soil moisture and resulted in less interannual variability in the duration of high-stability periods compared to slopes without trees. Our meta-analysis of published data also showed that slopes with woody vegetation were more stable and less sensitive to climate and soil factors than slopes with herbaceous vegetation. However, estimates of earthquake magnitude necessary to destabilize slopes at our sites suggest that large additional stabilization from trees is necessary for meaningful protection against external triggers.

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