Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 831–844 | Cite as

Cosmogenic exposure dating constraints for coastal landslide evolution on the Island of Malta (Mediterranean Sea)

  • Mauro Soldati
  • Timothy T. Barrows
  • Mariacristina PrampoliniEmail author
  • Keith L. Fifield


Landslides affecting the north-western coast of the Island of Malta have been investigated and monitored for 10 years. As a result of a bathymetric survey, it was discovered the deposits continued out onto the seafloor, thus raising questions as to the timing of their development. Furthermore it was uncertain as to which environment they developed in and which factors controlled their movements. The aim of this paper is to investigate representative detachments to chronologically constrain these mass movement events and outline their spatial and temporal evolution. Samples for exposure dating using the cosmogenic nuclide 36Cl were collected from head scarps and blocks located within two long-term monitored landslides characterised by extensive block slides. The results indicate the oldest dated block detachment occurring in a subaerial environment at ca. 21 ka, when the sea level was about 130 m lower than at present. Mass movement possibly accelerated when sea level reached the landslide toe during the post-glacial marine transgression. Considering the timing of block movement, the landslide deposits observed today appear to be related to a first-time failure involving a large part of the slope, though and alternative hypothesis is also taken here into account. This main event is likely to have been followed by secondary movements influenced by toe undercutting and clay saturation due to rising sea level. However, further research on mass movement kinematics is required in order to model their evolution and explore whether this interpretation is widely applicable along the Maltese coast.


Landslides Exposure dating Cosmogenic nuclides Malta Mediterranean Sea 



This research was part of the Project “Developing geomorphological mapping skills and datasets in anticipation of subsequent susceptibility, vulnerability, hazard and risk mapping” funded by the EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement of the Council of Europe (Unimore responsible: Prof. Mauro Soldati).

The author are grateful to Dr. Stefano Devoto (University of Trieste), Dr. Alessandro Pasuto and Dr. Matteo Mantovani (CNR-IRPI of Padua) for assistance on the field during sampling operations. We thank Karen Leslie and Sharon Turner for assistance in the laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Geological SciencesUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  3. 3.National Council of ResearchInstitute for Marine Sciences of BolognaBolognaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Nuclear Physics, Research School of Physical Sciences and EngineeringThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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