Analysis of changes in post-seismic landslide distribution and its effect on building reconstruction
Abstract. Six years after the devastating Ms 8.0 Wenchuan earthquake, new landslides, debris flows, and flash floods still occur frequently in the earthquake-stricken regions. This shows that the geological hazards that occur after a major earthquake in a mountainous environment can be a long-term threat. However, post-earthquake reconstruction and relocation of local residents often neglect this evolving threat, and its interaction with existing and rebuilt houses has not been well studied. Here we show that the evolving mountain environment, including the changed geographic distribution of new landslides and the continuously uplifting riverbed, creates emerging risks for existing and rebuilt houses. We use spatial analysis of landslide debris and the location of houses from high-resolution images and field survey in the study area and find that new landslides and the houses rebuilt after the Wenchuan earthquake have a similar trend of moving to lower elevations, gentler slopes, and closer to rivers. This study confirms that the persistent downward movement of landslide debris has rapidly filled up riverbeds over the past 6 years. The elevated riverbeds make the study area extremely susceptible to flash floods, creating further risks to newly rebuilt houses that are closer to the river. We highlight the often neglected dynamic process that involves changes in the natural environment and man-made constructions and their interaction. This dynamic process requires long-term monitoring and adaptive management of mountainous regions after major earthquakes that can fully consider the sophisticated evolving risks caused by the changing environment, exposure, and vulnerability in the region.