Journal article

Spatial and temporal rockfall activity in a forest stand in the Swiss Prealps : a dendrogeomorphological case study

  • Perret, Simone Department of Geography, University of Berne, Applied Geomorphology and Natural Risks, Berne, Switzerland
  • Stoffel, Markus Department of Geosciences, Geography, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Kienholz, Hans Department of Geography, University of Berne, Applied Geomorphology and Natural Risks, Berne, Switzerland
Published in:
  • Geomorphology. - 2006, vol. 74, no. 1-4, p. 219-231
English Rockfall is a major threat to settlements and transportation routes in large parts of the Alps. While protective forest stands in many locations undoubtedly reduce rockfall risk, little is known about the exact frequency and spatial distribution of rockfall activity in a given place or about how these parameters can be assessed. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to reconstruct rockfall events with dendrogeomorphological methods and to analyse the spatial and temporal rockfall activity in a subalpine forest stand. The study site is located in the transit zone of frequently passing, rather small rockfall fragments (mean diameter of 10 to 20 cm). In all, 33 stem discs from previously felled Picea abies trees found at the foot of Schwarzenberg in Diemtigtal (Swiss Prealps) were sampled, and a total number of 301 rockfall events were dated to between A.D. 1724 and 2002. Results showed that the spatial distribution of rockfall changed slightly with time, and that rockfall activity increased considerably over the last century. In contrast, rockfall magnitude presumably remained on a comparable level. The seasonal occurrence of rockfall showed a clear peak during the dormant season of trees, most probably in early spring. Furthermore, on a 10-year moving average basis, rockfall rates were positively correlated with mean annual as well as summer and winter temperatures. This means that higher temperatures resulted in increased rockfall activity. On the other hand, no correlation with annual or seasonal precipitation totals was revealed. Overall, this study provides an appropriate method for the detailed assessment of spatial and temporal variations in rockfall activity in a given place.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
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