A multidisciplinary approach for lateral spreading investigation in the north-western coast of Malta.

Mantovani M., Devoto S., Forte E., Mocnik A., Pasuto A., Piacentini D., Soldati M., 2013, A multidisciplinary approach for lateral spreading investigation in the north-western coast of Malta., Landslides (Berl., Print) 10 (2013): 611–622.,
URL: http://www.cnr.it/prodotto/i/263847

Landslides are widespread along the north-western coast of the Island of Malta and are strictly linked to the structural setting. Exemplary cases of rock spreading and block sliding phenomena characterise this stretch of coast. They are favoured by the overposition of two different geological units widely outcropping there, the Blue Clay Formation and the Upper Coralline Limestone Formation. The latter forms a wide plateau, bordered by vertical cliffs. At the foot of the cliffs, clayey terrains crop out and develop gentle slopes covered by large blocks detached and moved by rock spreading and block sliding phenomena. These mass movements are favoured by the fragile behaviour of limestones, which cap clays, otherwise characterised by visco-plastic properties. In order to investigate the kinematics and the evolution of these types of coastal landslides, a multidisciplinary and multitechnical approach was applied on a study site, named Il-Prajjet, which provides a spectacular case of rock spreading evolving into block sliding. This paper illustrates the results achieved by means of different engineering geological and geophysical techniques allied with traditional detailed geomorphological survey and mapping. In particular, the surface displacements of the landslides were determined using long-term GPS observations, acquired approximately every 6 months, over a 4.5-year period. A network of GPS benchmarks were distributed on the edge of a limestone plateau affected by rock spreading and on a series of displaced blocks making up a large block slide, finally enabling the definition of the state of activity and the rates of movement to be performed. In addition, the results deriving from two continuous fissurimeters more recently installed at the edge of two persistent joints over the block sliding area are outlined, with reference to the correlation between variations of crack apertures and precipitation input. In order to identify main structural discontinuities and to reconstruct variability of underground surface contact between clays and overlying limestones, Resistivity Tomography profiles and GPR investigations were carried out. Finally, the results obtained by combining the outputs of geophysical surveys and different field monitoring activities can be considered a first step on which numerical models can be developed and validated, in order to assess landslide hazard and risk of this stretch of Maltese coastline.

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