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Rainfall-induced landslide susceptibility zonation of Puerto Rico


Landslides are a major geologic hazard with estimated tens of deaths and $1–2 billion in economic losses per year in the US alone. The island of Puerto Rico experiences one or two large events per year, often triggered in steeply sloped areas by prolonged and heavy rainfall. Identifying areas susceptible to landslides thus has great potential value for Puerto Rico and would allow better management of its territory. Landslide susceptibility zonation (LSZ) procedures identify areas prone to failure based on the characteristics of past events. LSZs are here developed based on two widely applied methodologies: bivariate frequency ratio (FR method) and logistic regression (LR method). With these methodologies, the correlations among eight possible landslide-inducing factors over the island have been investigated in detail. Both methodologies indicate aspect, slope, elevation, geological discontinuities, and geology as highly significant landslide-inducing factors, together with land-cover for the FR method and distance from road for the LR method. The LR method is grounded in rigorous statistical testing and model building but did not improve results over the simpler FR method. Accordingly, the FR method has been selected to generate a landslide susceptibility map for Puerto Rico. The landslide susceptibility predictions were tested against previous landslide analyses and other landslide inventories. This independent evaluation demonstrated that the two methods are consistent with landslide susceptibility zonation from those earlier studies and showed this analysis to have resulted in a robust and verifiable landslide susceptibility zonation map for the whole island of Puerto Rico.

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The work has been funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Project NASA NNX07AD29G, Predicting Landslides Using Measurements of Precipitation from Space. We are thankful to Matthew C. Larsen, Associate Director for Water, U.S. Geological Survey, for providing landslide data. We appreciate the assistance and data provided by Prof. Frederick N. Scatena of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. We gratefully acknowledge reviewer comments.

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Correspondence to Chiara Lepore.

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Lepore, C., Kamal, S.A., Shanahan, P. et al. Rainfall-induced landslide susceptibility zonation of Puerto Rico. Environ Earth Sci 66, 1667–1681 (2012).

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  • Landslides
  • Landslide susceptibility
  • Rainfall-induced landsliding
  • Frequency ratio
  • Logistic regression
  • GIS
  • Susceptibility maps
  • Puerto Rico