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SMuCPhy

Research project of the Slope Mass-wasting under climate change. Physical mechanisms, predictive modelling and mitigation

Project description SMuCPhy

SMuCPhy is a multidisciplinary project along the Challenge line “Action on climate change and efficiency in the use of resources and raw materials” with special attention on the investigation of geological-geotechnical hazards under Climate Change and related adaptation strategies. It focuses on slope mass wasting (SMW) due to shallow failures in hilly and mountainous areas, one of the main erosional processes with important direct and indirect consequences to society (fatalities, damage to infrastructures, loss of agricultural and forested soils, reduction of reservoir volumes, etc.). Together with geological settings, material properties and climatic actions, an important controlling factor for SMW is the vegetation and this point receives a particular attention in the project.


Sediment retention for the construction of the dam of the Terradets reservoir in the Noguera Pallaresa river. The images show the formation of anthropogenic deltas

Sediment retention for the construction of the dam of the Terradets reservoir in the Noguera Pallaresa river. The images show the formation of anthropogenic deltas


The project addresses the problem of SMW under climate change by a novel approach, based on the integration of information and approaches at three different scales: slope, catchment and region. Scale integration is supported by a deterministic model. It is based on an existing Finite Element (FE) code for coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical processes in geological media, enhanced within the project with a module for soil/plant/atmosphere interactions. Model formulation and validation are supported at slope scale by data obtained during a pioneering and sophisticated full-scale experiment, built and instrumented in detail within the project. At catchment scale, FE model is used to back-analyse and predict the response of three instrumented sites in Central-Eastern Pyrenees, using meteorological time series projected according to Climate Change scenarios. At regional scale, a GIS based approach is used to correlate regional variables with mass wasting spatial-temporal characteristics and define typical slope cases for numerical simulations. Results at catchment and regional scales are cross-checked with historic data (magnitude-frequency relationships, rainfall intensity – duration thresholds) by means of simulation runs over past test/validation periods.

Predictions are also cross-checked by comparing historic data with those derived from numerical simulations. Possible strategies for mass wasting remediation include slope stabilization at slope and catchment scales by use of vegetation and risk management at regional scale by production of susceptibility maps. Consortium is formed by international multidisciplinary teams. It is composed by national and international researchers from the geological, geotechnical, geomatic and natural risks fields private companies and administrations in charge of land use planning. Main socioeconomic impacts are related to the better understanding of SMW mechanisms, a correct land-use planning and the promotion of vegetation in sustainable engineering designs. Project outcomes are directly transferred to administrations, companies and end users by the organization of meetings and seminars and an international workshop at the end of the project. Technical outcomes linked with SMW mitigation will be incorporated into the products of the collaborating companies and scientific publications in high-rating indexed journals published.


Scar of the flow of debris happened of March 22, 2015 in Arres de Jos (Val d'Aran)

Scar of the flow of debris happened of March 22, 2015 in Arres de Jos (Val d'Aran)


Dynamic barrier for the retention of torrential flows in Erill la Vall (Alta Ribagorça)

Dynamic barrier for the retention of torrential flows in Erill la Vall (Alta Ribagorça)


Consortium


SMuCPhy at a glance

  • Title: SMuCPhy project: Slope Mass-wasting under climate change. Physical mechanisms, predictive modelling and possible mitigation strategies.
  • Instrument: Proyectos EXCELENCIA y Proyectos RETOS. Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
  • Funded: 119 K€
  • Duration: 4 años (2016-2019)
  • Initial date: 1/1/2016
  • Completion date: 31/12/2019
  • Consortium: UPC, ICGC, POLIBA, BOKU, WSL, CENMA-IEA, GEOBRUGG IBÉRICA SA, WORLDSENSING SL, GEOMAR SLP, PRATI ARMATI SL
  • Project coordinator: UPC BarcelonaTECH
  • Project website: https://smucphy.upc.edu/

Collaborating universities and research institutes

Collaborating administrations

Collaborating companies


Actions and tasks of the project

WP1 - Analysis of historic events

This WP focusses on the slope mass-wasting at regional scale and analyses important historic events that occurred in the Central-Eastern Pyrenees using GIS (Geographical Information System) techniques. Many of the data-inputs (event data-base, rainfall records and susceptibility studies) are already available and can be totally or partially included in the following tasks.

WP2 - Monitoring of mass-wasting at catchment scale

This WP focusses on the slope mass-wasting at catchment scale and applies different monitoring techniques. It principally focuses on the Rebaixader catchment, where a sophisticated monitoring system is installed since 2009 and data on mass-wasting activity and rainfall are available for the last 70-80 years. Two other monitoring sites (Cercs and Erill) give supplementary information to avoid site-specific interpretations.

WP3 - Full-scale experiment soil/plant/atmosphere interactions

This WP focuses on the slope-scale and includes a full-scale physical experiment to analyze the response of bear and vegetalized artificial slopes to natural climatic actions and artificial infiltration, identify the controlling mechanisms and calibrate the numerical model developed in WP4. The lack of comprehensive field tests in the literature, full-scale experiment appears to be imperative to provide high quality measurements under well-controlled conditions about the thermo-hydraulic processes occurring at soil/plants/atmosphere interface and their coupling with mechanical effects.

WP4 - Development of advanced numerical model

This WP focuses on the scale of slope mechanisms. is devoted to the development and implementation in the Finite Element code Code_bright of an advanced model for soil/plant/atmosphere interactions. The model will aim at reproducing the main coupled chemo-thermo-hydro-mechanical processes responsible of soil water extraction by plants and plant growth. Model will be validated on measurements obtained in the physical experiment while supporting its interpretation.

WP5 - Numerical analysis of slope response

This WP includes the numerical simulations to be done at the slope scale with the THM and CTHM models developed in Workpackage 4. Simulations have several objectives: to support the design and interpretation of the physical experiment, calibrate the THM model and assess its level of representativeness, calibrate and validate the CTHM model, identify the different processes acting in bear and vegetalized slopes, interpret the field measurements acquired in the monitoring sites and analyze the mechanisms leading to shallow failure in these specific slopes.

WP6 - Scenarios analysis

This WP analyses the impact of climate change on slope mass-wasting at different scales (regional, catchment and slope scale) using retro- and prospective approaches. Existing climate models and maps of vegetation changes will be combined with the outputs of the previous WPs in order to assess the impacts.

WP7 - Proposal of some specific mitigation strategies

This WP proposes some solutions on the practical aspects related to slope mass-wasting and changing climate. Some specific mitigation strategies at slope and regional scale will be identified and described. This WP should be a starting point for future research.

WP8 - Management and dissemination

This work package will be active throughout the project and will ensure efficient coordination of the participants in the other work packages and of all major research and dissemination actions. These latter includes the transference of the results to the EPOs and to the scientific community.


Actions and tasks of the ICGC

WP1 - Analysis of historic events

This WP focusses on the slope mass-wasting at regional scale and analyses important historic events that occurred in the Central-Eastern Pyrenees.

The tasks of the ICGC focus on updating the landslides database. We will choose different study site of the territory where there have been many significant rainfall episodes that have produced generalized to the slope. One of the areas where the ICGC will focus the tasks of mapping and inventory of landslides will be the Val d’Aran, where in 2013, there were a significant rainfall in the Central Pyrenees, which caused an exceptional flood of the Garonne and Noguera Pallaresa river. These events were produce significant alterations to the river area, as well as important damages in different infrastructures. To complete the inventory, the comparison between the orthophotos before the episode (2012) and the subsequent ones (June-July 2013) will be made and will be characterized by field surveying.


Surface movements of slopes produced in the Barranco de Santa Margalida during rains and floods on 17 and 18 June 2013 in the Val d'Aran

Surface movements of slopes produced in the Barranco de Santa Margalida during rains and floods on 17 and 18 June 2013 in the Val d'Aran


In this WP is contemplated to carry out a study of the effect of vegetation on slope mass-wasting. This task can build on existing landslide susceptibility assessments. Definition of most typical slope cases. Determination of several standard slope types including three factors: slope angle, vegetation and - if possible - soil material/lithology. And finally, the definition of preliminary rainfall threshold for the triggering of slope mass-wasting.


Scar of coronation of the slip of the Font of the Bullidor (Berguedà)

Scar of coronation of the slip of the Font of the Bullidor (Berguedà)