From geotechnical analysis to quantification and modelling using LiDAR data: a study on rockfall in the Reintal catchment, Bavarian Alps, Germany


T. Heckmann, Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Department of Physical Geography, Ostenstraße 18, Eichstaett, DE 85072, Germany. E-mail:


In the year 2007, enhanced rockfall activity was observed within the scarp of a 500 BP rockslide in the Reintal catchment (Northern Calcareous Alps, Germany); the largest of a series of events took place in August, when almost 50000 m³ of rock were detached from the subvertical rock face and deposited on a talus cone. In this case study, we focus on three aspects of rockfall research: first, we compile detailed geomorphological and geotechnical findings to explain the causes of the recent events. The results of laboratory tests and stability estimations suggest that rockfall activity will persist in the future as the old rockslide scarp still contains unstable rock masses. Second, we use digital elevation data from a pre-event airborne LiDAR survey (ALS) and post-event terrestrial laserscanning (TLS) to quantify landform changes and the mass balance of the rockfall event(s). The widespread availability of ALS elevation data provides a good opportunity to quantify fresh events using a comparatively inexpensive TLS survey; this approach is complicated by uncertainties resulting from the difficult coregistration of ALS and TLS data and the specific geometric problems in steep (ALS) and flat (TLS) terrain; it is therefore limited to at least medium-sized events. Third, the event(s) is simulated using the results of the LiDAR surveys and a modified GIS-based rockfall model in order to test its capability of predicting the extent and the spatial distribution of deposition on the talus cone. Results show that the model generally reproduces the process domain and the spatial distribution of topographic changes but frequently under- and over-estimates deposition heights. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.