UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A Preliminary Investigation on the Role of Brittle Fracture in the Kinematics of the 2014 San Leo Landslide Donati, Davide; Stead, Doug; Elmo, Davide; Borgatti, Lisa


The stability of high rock slopes is largely controlled by the location and orientation of geological features, such as faults, folds, joints, and bedding planes, which can induce structurally controlled slope instability. Under certain conditions, slope kinematics may vary with time, as propagation of existing fractures due to brittle failure may allow development of fully persistent release surfaces. In this paper, the progressive accumulation of brittle damage that occurred prior to and during the 2014 San Leo landslide (northern Italy) is investigated using a synthetic rock mass (SRM) approach. Mapping of brittle fractures, rock bridge failures, and major structures is undertaken using terrestrial laser scanning, photogrammetry, and high-resolution photography. Numerical analyses are conducted to investigate the role of intact rock fracturing on the evolution of kinematic freedom using the two-dimensional Finite-discrete element method (FDEM) code Elfen, and the three-dimensional lattice-spring scheme code Slope Model. Numerical analyses show that the gradual erosion of clay-rich material below the base of the plateau drives the brittle propagation of fractures within the rock mass, until a fully persistent, subvertical rupture surface form, causing toppling of fault-bounded rock columns. This study clearly highlights the potential role of intact rock fracturing on the slope kinematics, and the interaction between intact rock strength, structural geology, and slope morphology.

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