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Variations in the susceptibility to landslides, as a consequence of land cover changes: A look to the past, and another towards the future

Pisano, L., Zumpano, V., Malek, Ž., Rosskopf, C.M., Parise, M.
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.601-602 pp. 1147-1159
basins, climatic factors, cultivation area, forest fires, forests, inventories, land cover, land management, landscape management, landslides, pastures, shrublands, soil, Italy
Land cover is one of the most important conditioning factors in landslide susceptibility analysis. Usually it is considered as a static factor, but it has proven to be dynamic, with changes occurring even in few decades. In this work the influence of land cover changes on landslide susceptibility are analyzed for the past and for future scenarios. For the application, an area representative of the hilly-low mountain sectors of the Italian Southern Apennines was chosen (Rivo basin, in Molise Region). With this purpose landslide inventories and land cover maps were produced for the years 1954, 1981 and 2007. Two alternative future scenarios were created for 2050, one which follows the past trend (2050-trend), and another one more extreme, foreseeing a decrease of forested and cultivated areas (2050-alternative). The landslide susceptibility analysis was performed using the Spatial Multi-Criteria Evaluation method for different time steps, investigating changes to susceptibility over time.The results show that environmental dynamics, such as land cover change, affect slope stability in time. In fact there is a decrease of susceptibility in the past and in the future 2050-trend scenario. This is due to the increase of forest or cultivated areas, that is probably determined by a better land management, water and soil control respect to other land cover types such as shrubland, pasture or bareland. Conversely the results revealed by the alternative scenario (2050-alternative), show how the decrease in forest and cultivated areas leads to an increase in landslide susceptibility. This can be related to the assumed worst climatic condition leading to a minor agricultural activity and lower extension of forested areas, possibly associated also to the effects of forest fires. The results suggest that conscious landscape management might contribute to determine a significant reduction in landslide susceptibility.