Research highlight

Net loss of landscape during 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Nature Geoscience

May 16, 2011

Landslides triggered by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China removed more material than was added by the mountain uplift generated by the fault movement reports a paper published online in Nature Geoscience. Shallow earthquakes are considered the primary driver of growth in mountain ranges, but in this case the landslides triggered by the quake seem to have removed more material than was added.

Alex Densmore and colleagues used satellite imagery to assess the amount of material displaced by landslides following the earthquake, and found that it was two to seven times greater than the uplift caused by the fault motion. They conclude that, even if only a fraction of the debris from the landslides is eroded, it will still result in a net loss of material from the region.

doi: 10.1038/ngeo1154

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