Dykes, Alan P. (2002) Weathering-limited rainfall-triggered shallow mass movements in undisturbed steepland tropical rainforest. Geomorphology, 46 (1-2). pp. 73-93. ISSN 0169-555X

Rainfall-triggered landslides in undisturbed tropical rainforests may have been underestimated as contributors to slope development and denudation in the past. Theoretically, ideal conditions for such geomorphic processes, i.e. steep slopes and frequent high magnitude and intensity rainfall events, occur in a number of tropical regions, particularly within Southeast Asia. Therefore, a high frequency of occurrence of shallow slope failures was expected in the undisturbed steeplands of southeast Brunei. Stability conditions of the steep planar slopes were examined using a deterministic modelling approach in order to examine the possibility that most slopes could not fail in response to rainfall because they did not possess a sufficiently thick mantle of residual soil. A simple hillslope hydrology model based on a soil moisture balance approach was used to simulate hillslope responses to measured and simulated rainfall events. The stability of saturated slopes could then be analysed using the infinite slope model, the input shear strength parameters for which were obtained from direct shear tests and then calibrated by back-analysis of a failure which occurred in late 1991. The findings suggest that any slope of 40° and steeper should fail several times every year in response to storm events, but that in reality most of the slopes have failed previously and have not yet regained a critical depth of residual soil. Some approximate values for rates of weathering and slope development suggest that any given slope will not fail at intervals of less than 10,000 years. Therefore, the occurrence of shallow failures will be infrequent but nevertheless significant in terms of regional denudation and ecological diversity.

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