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Geomorphology 125, 1 (2011) 214-224
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Paleotopographic control of landslides in lacustrine deposits (Trièves plateau, French western Alps)
Grégory Bièvre 1, 2, U. Kniess 1, Denis Jongmans 1, E. Pathier 1, S. Schwartz 3, Thierry Villemin 4, Cees Van Westen 5, Vilma Zumbo 2

Paleotopography in Quaternary sedimentary environments can be an important factor that controls landslide movement. This study investigates the relation between paleotopography and landslide activity in two adjacent landslides in glaciolacustrine sediments located in the Trièves area (French western Alps). Although both are in slopes underlain by the same lacustrine deposits, the Avignonet and Harmalière landslides exhibit major differences in morphology and displacement rates. Through a combination of geological mapping, airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data, aerial photographs, global positioning system (GPS), and seismic noise measurements, a three-dimensional impression was made of both landslides. The analysis reveals that the difference in kinematics between the two mass movements can be traced back to at least 50 years ago. The results show that the Harmalière slide, which failed catastrophically in 1981, is still much more active than the Avignonet landslide. The fear was that the Avignonet landslide might develop in a similar catastrophic manner, threatening a number of houses constructed on the landslide. A geophysical survey based on ambient noise measurements allowed us to map the base of the lacustrine clays, and the results indicate the presence of a N-S ridge of hard sediments (Jurassic bedrock and/or compact alluvial layers) on the eastern side of the Avignonet landslide. This ridge disappears when approaching the Harmalière landslide and makes a place to what can be interpreted as a NW-SE oriented paleovalley of the river Drac. We proposed that the ridge acts as a buttress that could mechanically prevent the Avignonet landslide from evolving as fast as the Harmalière. Furthermore, the NW-SE paleovalley located under the Harmalière landslide corresponds to the motion direction of the slide. Therefore, the different behaviour of the two landslides is partly controlled by the paleotopographic setting of Lake Trièves during the last Glacial Maximum extension. These results suggest a major influence of the bedrock paleotopography on the kinematics of the landslides.
1:  Laboratoire de géophysique interne et tectonophysique (LGIT)
CNRS : UMR5559 – Institut de recherche pour le développement [IRD] – LCPC – OSUG – INSU – Université de Savoie – Université Joseph Fourier - Grenoble I
2:  Laboratoire Régional d'Autun (LRA)
Centre d'Etudes Techniques de l'Equipement de Lyon
3:  Laboratoire de géodynamique des chaines alpines (LGCA)
CNRS : UMR5025 – OSUG – INSU – Université de Savoie – Université Joseph Fourier - Grenoble I
4:  Environnements, Dynamiques et Territoires de la Montagne (EDYTEM)
CNRS : UMR5204 – Université de Savoie
5:  International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)
International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation
Sciences of the Universe/Earth Sciences/Geophysics

Environmental Sciences/Global Changes


Sciences of the Universe/Earth Sciences/Geomorphology
Clay landslides – LiDAR – GPS – Aerial photographs – Microtremors – Differential kinematics – Palaeotographic control
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