, Volume 15, Issue 12, pp 2325–2341 | Cite as

Spatio-temporal evolution of mass wasting after the 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake revealed by a detailed multi-temporal inventory

  • Xuanmei Fan
  • Guillem Domènech
  • Gianvito Scaringi
  • Runqiu Huang
  • Qiang Xu
  • Tristram C. Hales
  • Lanxin Dai
  • Qin Yang
  • Oliver Francis
Original Paper


Strong earthquakes in mountainous areas can trigger a large number of landslides that generate deposits of loose and unconsolidated debris across the landscape. These deposits can be easily remobilised by rainfalls, with their movement frequently evolving into catastrophic debris flows and avalanches. This has been the fate of many of the 200,000 co-seismic deposits generated by the 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, China. Here we present one of the first studies on the post-seismic patterns of landsliding through a detailed multi-temporal inventory that covers a large portion of the epicentral area (462.5 km2). We quantify changes of size-frequency distribution, active volumes and type of movement. We analyse the possible factors controlling landslide activity and we discuss the significance of mapping uncertainties. We observe that the total number of active landslides decreased with time significantly (from 9189 in 2008 to 221 in 2015), and that post-seismic remobilisations soon after the earthquake (2008–2011) occurred stochastically with respect to the size of the co-seismic deposits. Subsequently (2013–2015), landslide rates remained higher in larger deposits than in smaller ones, particularly in proximity to the drainage network, with channelised flows becoming comparatively more frequent than hillslope slides. However, most of the co-seismic debris remained along the hillslopes and are largely stabilised, urging to rethink the way we believe that seismic activity affects the erosion patterns in mountain ranges.


Multi-temporal inventory Post-seismic landslides Mass wasting Wenchuan earthquake Area-frequency distribution Mapping uncertainties 



We want to thank all the group of experts for their contribution during the mapping.

Funding information

This research is financially supported by the Fund for International Cooperation (NSFC-RCUK_NERC), the Resilience to Earthquake-induced landslide risk in China (grant no. 41661134010), the Funds for Creative Research Groups of China (grant no. 41521002), the National Science Fund for Outstanding Young Scholars of China (grant no. 41622206), and the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars of China (grant no. 41225011).

Supplementary material

10346_2018_1054_MOESM1_ESM.docx (420 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 420 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xuanmei Fan
    • 1
  • Guillem Domènech
    • 1
  • Gianvito Scaringi
    • 1
  • Runqiu Huang
    • 1
  • Qiang Xu
    • 1
  • Tristram C. Hales
    • 2
  • Lanxin Dai
    • 1
  • Qin Yang
    • 1
  • Oliver Francis
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention and Geoenvironment ProtectionChengdu University of TechnologyChengduPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Sustainable Places Research InstituteCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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