Environmental Impact of Landslides

  • Marten Geertsema
  • Lynn Highland
  • Laura Vaugeouis


Landslides affect the following elements of the environment: (1) the topography of the earth’s surface; (2) the character and quality of rivers and streams and groundwater flow; (3) the forests that cover much of the earth’s surface; and (4) the habitats of natural wildlife that exist on the earth’s surface, including its rivers, lakes, and oceans. Large amounts of earth and organic materials enter streams as sediment as a result of this landslide and erosion activity, thus reducing the potability of the water and quality of habitat for fish and wildlife. Biotic destruction by landslides is also common; widespread stripping of forest cover by mass movements has been noted in many parts of the world. Removal of forest cover impacts wildlife habitat.

The ecological role that landslides play is often overlooked. Landslides contribute to aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. Debris flows and other mass movement play an important role in supplying sediment and coarse woody debris to maintain pool/riffle habitat in streams. As disturbance agents landslides engender a mosaic of seral stages, soils, and sites (from ponds to dry ridges) to forested landscapes.


Landslide Environmental impact Ecology Biodiversity Natural disturbance agent 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marten Geertsema
    • 1
  • Lynn Highland
    • 2
  • Laura Vaugeouis
    • 3
  1. 1.British Columbia Forest ServiceBritish ColumbiaCanada
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyDenver Federal CenterDenverUSA
  3. 3.Washington State Department of Natural ResourcesOlympiaUSA

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