Epic landslide erosion from mountain roads in Yunnan, China – challenges for sustainable development
- 1US Environmental Protection Agency, Ecosystems Research Division, National Exposure Research Laboratory, ORD, 960 College Station Road, Athens, GA 30605, USA
- 2ONCFS, CNERA PAD, 5 allée de Bethléem, 38610 Gières, France
- 3French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), AMAP, Bld de la Lironde, 34398 Montpellier CEDEX 5, France
- *current at address: University of the Sunshine Coast, Sustainability Research Centre, Locked Bag 4, Maroochydore, QLD 4558, Australia
Abstract. Expanding systems of mountain roads in developing countries have significantly increased the risk of landslides and sedimentation, and have created vulnerabilities for residents and aquatic resources. We measured landslide erosion along seven road segments in steep terrain in the upper Salween River basin, Yunnan, China and estimated sediment delivery to channels. Landslide erosion rates along the roads ranged from 2780 to 48 235 Mg ha−1 yr−1, the upper end of this range being the highest rate ever reported along mountain roads. The two roads with the highest landslide erosion (FG1 = 12 966 Mg ha−1 yr−1; DXD = 48 235 Mg ha−1 yr−1) had some of the highest sediment delivery rates to channels (about 80 and 86%, respectively). Overall, 3 times more landslides occurred along cut slopes compared to fill slopes, but fill slope failures had a combined mass > 1.3 times that of cut slope failures. Many small landslides occurred along road cuts, but these were often trapped on the road surface. Given the magnitude of the landslide problem and the lack of attention to this issue, a more sustainable approach for mountain road development is outlined based on an analysis of landslide susceptibility and how thresholds for landslide trigger mechanisms would be modified by road location and different construction techniques.