Deforestation induces shallow landsliding in the montane and subalpine belts of the Urbión Mountains, Iberian Range, Northern Spain

  1. García-Ruiz, J.M. 6
  2. Beguería, S. 5
  3. Arnáez, J. 1
  4. Sanjuán, Y. 6
  5. Lana-Renault, N. 1
  6. Gómez-Villar, A. 3
  7. Álvarez-Martínez, J. 4
  8. Coba-Pérez, P. 2
  1. 1 Universidad de La Rioja

    Universidad de La Rioja

    Logroño, España


  2. 2 Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

    Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

    Ciudad de México, México


  3. 3 Universidad de León

    Universidad de León

    León, España


  4. 4 Universidad de Valladolid

    Universidad de Valladolid

    Valladolid, España


  5. 5 Estación Experimental de Aula Dei

    Estación Experimental de Aula Dei

    Zaragoza, España


  6. 6 Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología

    Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología

    Zaragoza, España



ISSN: 0169-555X

Year of publication: 2017

Volume: 296

Pages: 31-44

Type: Article

DOI: 10.1016/J.GEOMORPH.2017.08.016 PMID: English SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-85032968016 WoS: WOS:000415769800003 GOOGLE SCHOLAR

More publications in: Geomorphology


In this study the spatial distribution of shallow landslides in the upper montane and subalpine belts of the Urbión Mountains (Iberian Range, northern Spain) was investigated, particularly in relation to the spatial organization of deforestation and land cover. The upper montane and subalpine belts have been deforested several times since the Neolithic Period, to enlarge the area of summer grasslands for feeding transhumant sheep flocks. Consequently, the timberline was lowered by 400–600 m, and increased the occurrence of severe erosion processes, particularly shallow landslides. This study shows that most of the landslide scars are in the summer grasslands area, and that a remarkable extent of the subalpine belt area has been subjected to mass movements. In addition to land use, the soil characteristics and topography help explain the development of conditions most favorable to landsliding. Shallow landslide susceptibility was highest in the upper parts of the slopes near the divides, in areas having slope gradients of 10–30° and deep soils with an increasing proportion of clay with depth. The landslides were clustered and not randomly distributed, and the causes of this spatial distribution are discussed. The current trend of woody encroachment in the upper montane and subalpine belts, resulting from decreasing livestock pressure, will probably reduce the susceptibility of these areas to shallow landslides in the future. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.