GIS tools for preliminary debris-flow assessment at regional scale

Cavalli M., Crema S., Trevisani S., Marchi L, 2017, GIS tools for preliminary debris-flow assessment at regional scale, Journal of Mountain Science 14 (2017): 2498–2510. doi_10.1007/s11629-017-4573-y,

The assessment of the areas endangered by debris flows is a major issue in the context of mountain watershed management. Depending on the scale of analysis, different methods are required for the assessment of the areas exposed to debris flows. While 2-D numerical models are advised for detailed mapping of inundation areas on individual alluvial fans, preliminary recognition of hazard areas at the regional scale can be adequately performed by less data-demanding methods, which enable priority ranking of channels and alluvial fans at risk by debris flows. This contribution focuses on a simple and fast procedure that has been implemented for regional-scale identification of debris-flow prone channels and prioritization of the related alluvial fans. The methodology is based on the analysis of morphometric parameters derived from Digital Elevation Models (DEMs). Potential initiation sites of debris flows are identified as the DEM cells that exceed a threshold of slope-dependent contributing area. Channel reaches corresponding to debris flows propagation, deceleration and stopping conditions are derived from thresholds of local slope. An analysis of longitudinal profiles is used for the computation of the runout distance of debris flows. Information on erosion-resistant bedrock channels and sediment availability surveyed in the field are taken into account in the applications. A set of software tools was developed and made available ( to facilitate the application of the procedure. This approach, which has been extensively validated by means of field checks, has been extensively applied in the eastern Italian Alps. This contribution discusses potential and limitations of the method in the frame of the management of small mountain watersheds.

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