Could road constructions be more hazardous than an earthquake in terms of mass movement?

Hakan Tanyas, Tolga Görüm, Dalia Kirschbaum, Luigi Lombardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Roads can have a significant impact on the frequency of mass wasting events in mountainous areas. However, characterizing the extent and pervasiveness of mass movements over time has rarely been documented due to limitations in available data sources to consistently map such events. We monitored the evolution of a road network and assessed its effect on mass movements for a 11-year window in Arhavi, Turkey. The main road construction projects run in the area are associated with a hydroelectric power plant as well as other road extension works and are clearly associated with the vast majority (90.1%) of mass movements in the area. We also notice that the overall number and size of the mass movements are much larger than in the naturally occurring comparison area. This means that the sediment load originating from the anthropogenically induced mass movements is larger than its counterpart associated with naturally occurring landslides. Notably, this extra sediment load could cause river channel aggregation, reduce accommodation space and as a consequence, it could lead to an increase in the probability and severity of flooding along the river channel. This marks a strong and negative effect of human activities on the natural course of earth surface processes. We also compare frequency-area distributions of human-induced mass movements mapped in this study and co-seismic landslide inventories from the literature. By doing so, we aim to better understand the consequences of human effects on mass movements in a comparative manner. Our findings show that the damage generated by the road construction in terms of sediment loads to river channels is compatible with the possible effect of a theoretical earthquake with a magnitude greater than Mw = 6.0.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNatural Hazards
StatePublished - Jan 6 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-05-25
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): URF/1/4338-01-01
Acknowledgements: The research presented in this article is partially supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, Grant URF/1/4338-01-01.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science


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