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Keywords:

  • slope stability;
  • root strength;
  • clearcutting;
  • partial cutting;
  • safety factor;
  • simulation

Abstract

Long-term effects of different forest management practices on landslide initiation and volume were analysed using a physically based slope stability model. The watershed-based model calculates the effects of multiple harvesting entries on slope stability by accounting for the cumulative impacts of a prior vegetation removal on a more recent removal related to vegetation root strength and tree surcharge. Four sequential clearcuts and partial cuts with variable rotation lengths were simulated with or without leave areas and with or without understorey vegetation in a subwatershed of Carnation Creek, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The combined infinite slope and distributed hydrologic models used to calculate safety factor revealed that most of the simulated landslides were clustered within a 5 to 17 year period after initial harvesting in cases where sufficient time (c. 50 years) lapsed prior to the next harvesting cycle. Partial cutting produced fewer landslides and reduced landslide volume by 1·4- to 1·6-fold compared to clearcutting. Approximately the same total landslide volume was produced when 100 per cent of the site was initially clearcut compared to harvesting 20 per cent of the area in successive 10 year intervals; a similar finding was obtained for partial cutting. Vegetation leave areas were effective in reducing landsliding by 2- to 3-fold. Retaining vigorous understorey vegetation also reduced landslide volume by 3·8- to 4·8-fold. The combined management strategies of partial cutting, increasing rotation length, provision of leave areas, and retention of viable understorey vegetation offer the best alternative for minimizing landslide occurrence in managed forests. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.