Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
Research article
09 May 2011
Research article |  | 09 May 2011

Debris-flow activity in abandoned channels of the Manival torrent reconstructed with LiDAR and tree-ring data

J. Lopez Saez, C. Corona, M. Stoffel, A. Gotteland, F. Berger, and F. Liébault

Abstract. Hydrogeomorphic processes are a major threat in many parts of the Alps, where they periodically damage infrastructure, disrupt transportation corridors or even cause loss of life. Nonetheless, past torrential activity and the analysis of areas affected during particular events remain often imprecise. It was therefore the purpose of this study to reconstruct spatio-temporal patterns of past debris-flow activity in abandoned channels on the forested cone of the Manival torrent (Massif de la Chartreuse, French Prealps). A Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) generated Digital Elevation Model (DEM) was used to identify five abandoned channels and related depositional forms (lobes, lateral levees) in the proximal alluvial fan of the torrent. A total of 156 Scots pine trees (Pinus sylvestris L.) with clear signs of debris flow events was analyzed and growth disturbances (GD) assessed, such as callus tissue, the onset of compression wood or abrupt growth suppression. In total, 375 GD were identified in the tree-ring samples, pointing to 13 debris-flow events for the period 1931–2008. While debris flows appear to be very common at Manival, they have only rarely propagated outside the main channel over the past 80 years. Furthermore, analysis of the spatial distribution of disturbed trees contributed to the identification of four patterns of debris-flow routing and led to the determination of three preferential breakout locations. Finally, the results of this study demonstrate that the temporal distribution of debris flows did not exhibit significant variations since the beginning of the 20th century.