Weakening laws of slip zone soils during wetting–drying cycles based on fractal theory: a case study in the Three Gorges Reservoir (China)


Slip zone soils play a crucial role in the evolution of landslides. In this paper, slip zone soils of the Huangtupo Landslide in the Three Gorges Reservoir area, which is an ancient landslide affected by water level fluctuation, are taken as an example to research the influence of wetting–drying cycles on soil properties. The mercury intrusion porosimetry test is used to study the soil’s microstructure, while the triaxial test is used to measure the mechanical parameters. The experimental results indicate that the wetting–drying cycles can change the micropore structures and macro-mechanical properties of the soils. Meanwhile, it is demonstrated that there is a certain relationship between the macro- and micro-properties. From the microcosmic perspective, the fractal structure unit formed in the long-term geological environment is the key factor affecting the mechanical properties of the slip zone soils. Then, based on fractal theory, a weakening model of slip zone soils during wetting–drying cycles is proposed. The correctness and reliability of the model are verified by the mechanical parameters from triaxial tests. Finally, it is indicated that the weakening model can be used to forecast the weakening coefficient of slip zone soils under wetting–drying action, which results from the periodic fluctuations of the reservoir level.

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This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41977244), the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC1501301), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41572278, 41772310). We thank the colleagues in our laboratory for their constructive comments and assistance.

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Correspondence to Yiping Wu.

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Miao, F., Wu, Y., Li, L. et al. Weakening laws of slip zone soils during wetting–drying cycles based on fractal theory: a case study in the Three Gorges Reservoir (China). Acta Geotech. 15, 1909–1923 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11440-019-00894-8

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  • Fractal theory
  • Macro-mechanical properties
  • Microstructure
  • Slip zone soils
  • Weakening model
  • Wetting–drying cycles