Distinctive controls on the distribution of river-damming and non-damming landslides induced by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

  • Ran Tang
  • Xuanmei Fan
  • Gianvito Scaringi
  • Qiang Xu
  • Cees J. van Westen
  • Jing Ren
  • Hans-Balder Havenith
Original Paper


The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake (China, Mw 7.9) highlighted the importance of assessing and mitigating the hazards from co-seismic landslides and landslide dams. The seismic shaking triggered hundreds of thousands of landslides, about 800 of which dammed the course of rivers. To understand whether distinctive factors concurred with the river-damming events, we analyzed the spatial patterns of the river-damming landslides and the non-damming landslides separately, with reference to a number of possible controlling factors. Then, we quantified the significance of these factors using the weight of evidence method, and we used the results to perform a susceptibility assessment in a portion of the earthquake-affected region to verify the effectiveness of the method. We find that the distance to the fault surface rupture, peak ground acceleration (PGA) and lithology play a controlling role for co-seismic landslides of any type. The occurrence of river-damming landslides, rather than by a specific lithology or topography, is more related to hydrological factors, while topographic controls (slope, internal relief and terrain roughness) are more significant for the non-damming landslides.


Landslide Landslide dam Wenchuan earthquake Controlling factors Weight of evidence 



This research was financially supported by National Science Fund for Outstanding Young Scholars of China (Grant No. 41622206), the Funds for Creative Research Groups of China (Grant No. 41521002), the Fund for International Cooperation (NSFC-RCUK_NERC), Resilience to Earthquake-induced landslide risk in China (grant No. 41661134010), the AXA Research Fund (ARF), the Fok Ying-Tong Education Foundation for Young Teachers in the Higher Education Institutions of China (151018) and the Fund from Land and Resources Department of Sichuan Province (Grant No. KJ-2015-01).

The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful suggestions and editorial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ran Tang
    • 1
  • Xuanmei Fan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gianvito Scaringi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qiang Xu
    • 1
  • Cees J. van Westen
    • 3
  • Jing Ren
    • 1
  • Hans-Balder Havenith
    • 4
  1. 1.The State Key Laboratory of Geohazards Prevention and Geoenvironment Protection (SKLGP)Chengdu University of TechnologyChengduChina
  2. 2.Chengdu University of TechnologyChengduChina
  3. 3.Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)University of TwenteEnschedethe Netherlands
  4. 4.Géorisques et EnvironnementUniversité de LiègeLiègeBelgium

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