Dille, A., Dewitte, O., Handwerger, A.L., d’Oreye, N., Derauw, D., Ganza Bamulezi, G., Ilombe Mawe, G., Michellier, C., Moeyersons, J., Monsieurs, E., Mugaruka Bibentyo, T., Samsonov, S., Smets, B., Kervyn, M. & Kervyn, F. 2022. ‘Acceleration of a large deep-seated tropical landslide due to urbanization feedbacks’. Nature Geoscience 15: 1048–1055. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-01073-3. URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-022-01073-3 I.F. 21.531.
Article in a scientific Journal / Article in a Journal
The movement of large, slow-moving, deep-seated landslides is regulated principally by changes in pore-water pressure in the slope. In urban areas, drastic reorganization of the surface and subsurface hydrology—for example, associated with roads, housings or storm drainage—may alter the subsurface hydrology and ultimately the slope stability. Yet our understanding of the influence of slope urbanization on the dynamics of landslides remains elusive. Here we combined satellite and (historical) aerial images to quantify how 70 years of hillslope urbanization changed the seasonal, annual and multi-decadal dynamics of a large, slow-moving landslide located in the tropical environment of the city of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Analysis of week-to-week landslide motion over the past 4.5 years reveals that it is closely tied to pore-water pressure changes, pointing to interacting influences from climate, weathering, tectonics and urban development on the landslide dynamics. Over decadal timescales, we find that the sprawl of urbanized areas led to the acceleration of a large section of the landslide, which was probably driven by self-reinforcing feedbacks involving slope movement, rerouting of surface water flows and pipe ruptures. As hillslopes in many tropical cities are being urbanized at an accelerating pace, better understanding how anthropogenic activity influences surface processes will be vital to effective risk planning and mitigation.