Land management versus natural factors in land instability: some examples in northern Spain

Environ Manage. 2013 Aug;52(2):398-416. doi: 10.1007/s00267-013-0108-7.


The objective of this work is to test a hypothesis formulated on the basis of former results which considers that there might be a ‘‘global geomorphic change,’’ due to activities related to land management and not determined by climate change, which could be causing an acceleration of geomorphic processes. Possible relationships between some geomorphic processes related to land instability (landslides or sediment generation) and potential triggering factors are analyzed in study areas in northern Spain. The analysis is based on landslide inventories covering different periods, as well as the determination of sedimentation rates. Temporal landslide and sedimentation rate trends are compared with different indicators of human activities (land-use change, logging, forest fires) and with potential natural triggers (rainfall, seismicity). The possible influence of the road network in the distribution of landslides is also analyzed. Results obtained show that there is a general increase of both landslide and sedimentation rates with time that cannot be explained satisfactorily by observed rainfall trends and even less by seismicity. Land use change appears to be by far the main factor leading to land instability, with some changes producing up to a 12-fold increase of landslide rate. A relationship between road network and the spatial distribution of landslides has also been observed. These results do confirm the existence of an acceleration of geomorphic processes in the region, and also suggest that climate-related factors play a limited role in the changes observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Humans
  • Landslides*
  • Rain
  • Spain
  • Transportation