Coupling of Flow and Deformation Processes for Modeling the Movement of Natural Slopes

Duration: 2009-2011 (36 Months)

Funding: DFG (Forschergruppe 581)

Partners: Technische Universität Berlin, Technische Universität München, Universität Stuttgart, Universität Karlsruhe, Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus, Universität Potsdam

Landslides are increasingly regarded as serious threat to individuals and infrastructure. The risk of sliding slopes is thought to increase due to implications of climate change and intense land use across mountainous areas.

The forecast of a landslide requires profound knowledge of local processes and subsurface structures for the simulation of the complex natural system. The research unit “Natural Slopes” investigates the influence of processes such as precipitation, surface runoff, infiltration, fluid mechanics in the subsurface, and deformation of partly saturated soils and their interaction in the context of gravity-driven mass movements. Research work focuses on the Heumoes slope in the eastern Vorarlberg Alps, a unique natural system, which has been studied since several years. The crucial point is, however, that the Heumoes slope offers the possibility to study a slow moving slope in natural conditions.

UFZ subproject: Geoelectric-based characterisation of the subsurface and soil-moisture monitoring

The identification of slope areas characterised by different hydrogeological properties as well as the monitoring of soil-moisture dynamics is essential for exploring precipitation-induced mass movements. In this subproject, superficial structures with influence on soil-moisture distribution and hydrogeological processes shall be examined by means of geoelectrical methods such as electromagnetic induction (EMI) and direct-current (DC) resistivity measurements. The implementation of a hierarchical approach enables thereby the combination of geophysical measurements on different spatial scales. EMI measurements will be applied for exploring the near-surface heterogeneity of the whole slope. Based on the results of the EMI surveys, detailed DC resistivity measurements will be conducted to selected transects and for monitoring purposes. The results will be used for describing correlations between different geologic, hydrologic, and mechanical parameters, and finally for a comprehensive image of the natural system of the Heumoes slope.