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Mapping of Quaternary solifluction deposits in southwest England: a tool for planners and the prediction of natural geohazards

By Jonathan R. Lee, Stephen J. Booth, Elaine Burt, Alick Leslie and Richard J.O. Hamblin


Over two-thirds of northern and central Britain has been glaciated during the Quaternary, and the present landscape is a relict of the glacial processes that have acted to erode and redistribute large quantities of geological material. The landscape of Southern Britain by contrast, which lay largely beyond the maximum ice extent, was not subjected to such processes. Instead the present form of the landscape reflects approximately 2.5 million years of subaerial weathering under a climate regime, characterized since the onset of the Middle Pleistocene, by a long-term trend of periglacial-Interglacial-periglacial cycles operating with 100ka cyclicty. The effect of this, as preserved with the geological record, has been the extensive in-situ weathering of bedrock materials and the development of thick regolith. Since the region became populated, deforestation and cultivation has progressively removed the vegetation that once acted to stabilize the regolith, and the regolith material is now highly susceptible to erosion by hillwash and solifluction processes. This represents a significant ground stability hazard especially in relation to the subsidence and collapse of roads and property. In addition, large valley accumulations of regolith material can liquefy under prolonged periods of intense rainfall and can result in catastrophic flooding and landslide events, such as those that occurred in Lynmouth in 1952 and more recently, in Boscastle on the north Cornwall coast in 2004. This abstract reports the findings of research undertaken both to map the spatial extent of these regolith deposits, and also to understand what controls their local and regional distribution. The research, based upon field analysis and NEXTMAP digital terrain models from two test areas in southwest England, reveals that the spatial distribution of in-situ and soliflucted regolith material is largely controlled by lithological variability and structural complexity of the bedrock. It is hoped that these models will prove an invaluable to planners\ud to enable informed decision making and the prediction of natural geohazards

Topics: Earth Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.quaint.2007.04.001
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