Contrasting sediment flux in Val Lumnezia (Graubünden, Eastern Swiss Alps), and implications for landscape development

Abstract

This paper presents qualitative estimates of sediment discharge from opposite valley flanks in the S–N-oriented Val Lumnezia, eastern Swiss Alps, and relates inferred differences in sediment flux to the litho-tectonic architecture of bedrock. The valley flank on the western side hosts the deep-seated Lumnezia landslide where an area of ca. 30 km2 has experienced slip rates of several centimetres per year, potentially resulting in high sediment discharge to the trunk stream (i.e. the Glogn River). High slip rates have resulted in topographic changes that are detectable on aerial photographs and measurable with geodetic tools. In contrast, a network of tributary channels dissects the valley flank on the eastern side. There, an area of approximately 18 km2 corresponding to < 30% of the surface has experienced a change in the landscape mainly by rock avalanche and rock fall, and the magnitudes of changes are below the calibration limit of digital photogrammetry. We thus infer lower magnitudes of sediment discharge on the eastern tributaries than on the western valley side, where landsliding has been the predominant erosional process. These differences are interpreted to be controlled by the dip-slope situation of bedrock on the western side that favours down-slope slip of material.

Morphometric investigations reveal that the western valley side is characterized by a low topographic roughness because this valley flank has not been dissected by a channel network. It appears that high sediment discharge of the Lumnezia landslide has inhibited the establishment of a stable channel network and has largely controlled the overall evolution of the landscape. This contrasts to the general notion that channelized processes exert the first-order control on landscape evolution and formation of relief and needs to be considered in future studies about landscape architecture, drainage network and sediment discharge.

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Correspondence to Fritz Schlunegger.

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Manuscript received July 25, 2007; Revision accepted April 16, 2009

Editorial Handling: A. Wetzel & S. Bucher

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Schwab, M., Schlunegger, F., Schneider, H. et al. Contrasting sediment flux in Val Lumnezia (Graubünden, Eastern Swiss Alps), and implications for landscape development. Swiss J. Geosci. 102, 211–222 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00015-009-1320-6

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Keywords:

  • landslide
  • Alps
  • monitoring
  • geomorphology
  • drainage basin development