Shallow landslides as drivers for slope ecosystem evolution and biophysical diversity

Alejandro Gonzalez-Ollauri*, Slobodan B. Mickovski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Shallow landslides may be seen as local disturbances that foster the evolution of slope landscapes as part of their self-regulating capacity. Gaining insight into how slope ecosystems function and evolve could make eco-engineering interventions on slopes more successful. The objective of the present study is to detect traits of shallow landslide-triggered ecosystem evolution, self-regulation and biophysical diversity in a small-scale landslide-prone slope in Northeast Scotland. A protocol was defined to explore the emergence of landslide-driven slope habitats. This protocol studied plant diversity, species richness and plant biomass differences and their interactions with certain soil and topographic attributes at three slope strata during two consecutive growing seasons following an assemblage of shallow landslide events. Plant species and soil properties with potential as indicators of the different landslide-driven slope habitats and landscape evolution were also considered. Shallow landslides contributed to biophysical diversity and created distinct slope habitats within the landscape. Habitat differences in terms of species richness and composition were a direct consequence of the slope self-regulation. Certain plant species were found to be valid indicators of landslide-driven biophysical diversity. Soil total nitrogen and resistance to penetration were related to slope habitat and landscape evolution. As expected, plant establishment relied upon light and nitrogen trade-offs, which in turn were influenced by landscape topography. The insights derived from this study will be useful in slope restoration, particularly in harmonising effective actions with the functioning of landslide-prone ecosystems. Further research directions to clarify the observed variability and interactions are highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1699-1714
Number of pages16
JournalLandslides
Volume14
Issue number5
Early online date3 Apr 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

Keywords

  • shallow landslide
  • ecosystem
  • environmental covariates
  • biophysical diversity
  • plant diversity
  • self-organisation

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