Outcrop fracture network characterization for unraveling deformation sequence, geomechanical properties distribution, and slope stability in a flysch sequence (Monte Venere Formation, Northern Apennines, Italy)

  • Marco AntonelliniEmail author
  • Pauline N. Mollema
Original Paper


A detailed characterization of outcrop fracture networks in the turbiditic flysch sequence of the Monte Venere Formation (Northern Apennines) together with in situ measurements of rock strength using the Schmidt hammer provided important insights into the sequence of deformation and the slope stability conditions. The inferred sequence of structure formation from oldest to youngest is bedding-parallel cleavage, veins and normal faults, joints, and strike-slip faults (sheared joints). Alteration halos around fractures (joints, splay joints, strike-slip faults, and some normal faults) point out that these structures were conductive to meteoric water during uplift and erosion in the Holocene. Calcite-filled veins without alteration halos are considered local barriers to fluid flow and diffusion. Bedding thickness controls rock fracturing characterization parameters in the Monte Venere Formation. Reactivation in shear of pre-existing structures, however, causes the formation of splay joint clusters that locally increase fracture density contributing to degrade the mechanical strength of the rock. These localized clusters are apparent in detailed outcrop maps but they are usually not detected by the rock fracturing characterization parameters. Our data also imply that the presence of bedding-parallel cleavage is more important than layer thickness in controlling the rock compressive strength and ultimately the peak shear strength along a potentially sliding surface. This study takes closer look at landslide formation in a sloped flysch sequence under Mediterranean climate conditions and allowed to consider a conceptual model for landslide occurrence in which structural discontinuities and meteoric water flow through fracture networks are main triggering factors.


Fracture networks In situ rock compressive strength Joint density Fracture flow Landslide hazard Northern Apennines 



Marco Antonellini acknowledges basic research funding (RFO) from the University of Bologna for the fieldwork performed during this study. Excellent reviews by Fabrizio Balsamo and Ferid Dhahri contributed to improve significantly the original manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 22 KB)


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© Geologische Vereinigung e.V. (GV) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Geological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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