Estimating the impact of earthquake-induced landslides on contemporary sediment yield

Jente Broeckx
Rivieren in opschuddingAardbevingen kunnen naast het instorten van gebouwen ook grondverschuivingen veroorzaken. Bij sommige aardbevingen gaat het om enorme massa’s rots en bodemmateriaal tot wel 47 miljard kubieke meter. Om dit materiaal te transporteren zou een konvooi vrachtwagens nodig zijn dat 725 maal langer is dan onze evenaar. Een deel van deze grondverschuivingen kan bovendien in rivieren terechtkomen, met alle gevolgen van dien.Iedereen kent de beelden waarbij men na een grondverschuiving met man en macht op zoek gaat naar overlevenden bedolven onder het puin.

Estimating the impact of earthquake-induced landslides on contemporary sediment yield

Rivieren in opschudding

Aardbevingen kunnen naast het instorten van gebouwen ook grondverschuivingen veroorzaken. Bij sommige aardbevingen gaat het om enorme massa’s rots en bodemmateriaal tot wel 47 miljard kubieke meter. Om dit materiaal te transporteren zou een konvooi vrachtwagens nodig zijn dat 725 maal langer is dan onze evenaar. Een deel van deze grondverschuivingen kan bovendien in rivieren terechtkomen, met alle gevolgen van dien.

Iedereen kent de beelden waarbij men na een grondverschuiving met man en macht op zoek gaat naar overlevenden bedolven onder het puin. Jaarlijks komen naar schatting zo’n 10 000 mensen om bij grondverschuivingen. Vaak zijn er echter ook belangrijke onrechtstreekse gevolgen.  Zo kunnen een aantal van deze grondverschuivingen in rivieren terechtkomen, wat kan leiden tot het versneld dichtslibben van naturlijke meren en reservoirs. Dit kan bijgevolg een belangrijke bedreiging vormen voor de energie- en watervoorziening van sommige streken. Het goed inschatten van deze risico’s is dan ook van cruciaal belang.

Het is algemeen gekend dat veel grondverschuivingen voorkomen in de onmiddellijke nasleep van een aardbeving. Wat tot op heden echter moeilijk te voorspellen blijft is hoe deze grondverschuivingen het sedimenttransport van de omliggende rivieren beïnvloeden. In een aantal gevallen werd vastgesteld dat zware aardbevingen resulteerden in een grote piek van sedimentafvoer, omwille van de veroorzaakte grondverschuivingen. Het voorkomen en de grootte van dergelijke piek is een belangrijk gegeven, maar vereist ondermeer inzicht in de hoeveelheid, de grootte en locatie van de grondverschuivingen ten gevolge van een aardbeving.

‘Ons model kon deze schijnbare tegenstelling verklaren: de grote aardbeving veroorzaakte een relatief beperkt aantal grondverschuivingen in vergelijking met de vele kleine aardbevingen.’

ModelVerschillende factoren spelen een rol bij het voorkomen van grondverschuivingen als gevolg van een aardbeving. Enerzijds zijn de eigenschappen van de aardbeving van belang, zoals de kracht (magnitude) van de aardschok en de ligging van het epicentrum. Daarnaast zijn ook omgevingsfactoren zoals het reliëf bepalend. Algemeen kan men stellen dat de kans op grondverschuivingen toeneemt, naarmate de kracht van de aardbeving toeneemt, men zich dichter bij het epicentrum bevindt en de lokale hellingen steiler zijn. Zo veroorzaakte in 1950 de Assam aardbeving, met een magnitude van 8,6 en het epicentrum aan de voet van het zeer steile Himalaya gebergte, tienduizenden grondverschuivingen met een totaal volume van 47 miljard kubieke meter. De Lorca aardbeving in Spanje in 2011 met een magnitude van 5,1 en in een minder reliëfrijk gebied, veroorzaakte daarentegen slechts een 250-tal grondverschuivingen.

Op basis van de magnitude, de afstand tot het epicentrum en het reliëf van vele aardbevingen verspreid over de hele wereld, werd een model opgesteld. Eerst bepaalde dit model het totale sediment volume en het totale aantal grondverschuivingen veroorzaakt door een specifieke aardbeving op een zekere plaats. Nadien werden dan de locaties van al deze grondverschuivingen toegewezen. Dit gebeurde op basis van een kanskaart, die de kans op een grondverschuiving op elke plaats weergaf (bijlage 1). Uiteraard is dit model een schatting die onderhevig is aan belangrijke onzekerheden. Enerzijds door onnauwkeurigheden omtrent de meetgegevens (grondverschuivingsaantallen en –volumes). Anderzijds omdat nauwkeurige data van verklarende factoren zoals gesteentesoorten en breuklijnen niet voorhanden was.

ToepassingEen onmiddelijke toepassing van dit model is de analyse van een lange reeks aardbevingen, bijvoorbeeld gedurende een periode van 50 jaar, in een bepaalde regio. Dit laat toe om realistische schattingen te maken van de sediment volumes die door aardbevingsgerelateerde grondverschuivingen vrij kunnen komen en potentieel door rivieren kunnen meegevoerd worden. Een dergelijkke toepassing op het Siret bekken in Roemenië (bijlage 2) leidde tot belangrijke inzichten. Zo stelde eerder onderzoek vast dat een grote aardbeving in Roemenië geen grote piek in sedimentafvoer veroorzaakte. Toch werd vastgesteld dat ruimtelijke patronen in sedimentafvoer van verschillende rivieren in sterke mate verklaard werden door verschillen in seismische activiteit. Ons model kon deze schijnbare tegenstelling verklaren: simulaties wezen uit dat de grote aardbeving slechts een relatief beperkt aantal grondverschuivingen veroorzaakte in vergelijking met het aantal grondverschuivingen die door kleine maar veel vaker voorkomende aardbevingen veroorzaakt werden. Met andere woorden: in het geval van Roemenië dragen niet alleen de grote aardbevingen, maar zeker ook de meer frequente kleinere aardbevingen bij aan de sedimentlading van rivieren.

Deze inzichten leiden niet alleen tot een betere voorspelling van sedimentafvoer en op die manier tot een beter rivierbeheer, maar laten ook toe om aardbevingsrisico’s in de toekomst beter te voorspellen. Omdat erg grote aardbevingen vaak slechts eenmaal voorkomen gedurende een periode van duizenden jaren, moet in het landschap zelf gezocht worden naar sporen van prehistorische zware aardbevingen. Sedimentafzettingen in meren kunnen hierbij belangrijke aanwijzingen leveren. Ons onderzoek kan dus ook bijdragen aan een betere interpretatie van dergelijke afzettingen.

ToekomstIn een wereld waar meer dan ooit energie en water de gemoederen verhitten, kan ons onderzoek bijdragen tot een  weloverwogen inplanning van dure infrastructuur zoals stuwdammen. In dat opzicht zouden aardbevingsgevoelige gebieden met een groot risico op grondverschuivingen dus best vermeden worden om het duurzame gebruik van dergelijke infrastructuur te garanderen.

 

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Geografie
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2014
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