Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
15 Mar 2006
15 Mar 2006

Geomorphological mapping and geophysical profiling for the evaluation of natural hazards in an alpine catchment

A. C. Seijmonsbergen and L. W. S. de Graaff

Abstract. Liechtenstein has faced an increasing number of natural hazards over recent decades: debris flows, slides, snow avalanches and floods repeatedly endanger the local infrastructure. Geomorphological field mapping and geo-electrical profiling was used to assess hazards near Malbun, a village potentially endangered by landslides, and especially debris flows. The area is located on the tectonic contacts of four different nappe slices. The bedrock consists of anhydrite and gypsum, dolomite, shale, marl, and limestone. The spatial distribution and occurrence of debris flows and slides is evaluated through a combination of geomorphological expert knowledge, and detailed visualization in a geographical information system. In a geo-database a symbol-based 1:3000 scale geomorphological map has been digitized and rectified into polygons. The polygons include information on the main geomorphological environment, the Quaternary material distribution and of geomorphological processes, which are stored in attribute tables. The spatial distribution of these attributes is then combined with geophysical information and displacement rates interpolated from benchmark measurements. On one of the landslides two geo-electrical profiles show that the distance to a potential failure plane varies between 10-20 m and that the topography of the failure plane is influenced by subterranean gypsum karst features. The displacement measurements show that this landslide actively disintegrates into minor slides and is not, therefore, a risk to the village of Malbun. The hazard zonation indicates that debris flows can pose a risk if no countermeasures are taken. Gypsum karst may locally accelerate the landslide activity. In contrast, the impact of debris flows is diminished because collapse dolines may act as sediment traps for the debris flow materials. This research illustrates how geomorphological expert knowledge can be integrated in a GIS for the evaluation of natural hazards on a detailed scale.