Glissements de terrain et érosion des chaînes de montagnes : étude de cas dans l'Himalaya central

Abstract : Landscape evolution is at the heart of a complex system of interactions between tectonics, climate and erosion. While the influence of climate on erosion rates is still debated, mountainous areas are a priori particularly sensitive to climatic changes. In order to better understand these interactions, it is of fundamental importance to quantify the importance of each erosion process, in addition to their sensitivity to rainfall. Among the erosion processes, landslides represent a major, unpredictable and often catastrophic, phenomenon that can involve considerable volumes of rocks. Many previous works have shown that landslides are the primary agent of hillslope erosion in the unglaciated valleys of the Himalayas. From this point of view, the aim of this work is to better constrain landslide evolution and dynamics in the central Himalayas, and their role in the erosion of this mountain range, on different timescales. The Khudi Khola catchment, in central Nepal, displays a large landsliding zone that has been active for several decades, in a context of intense erosion. This characteristic provides the opportunity to study this landslide in detail, from timescales ranging from an hour to several decades. The Saituti landslide history was reconstructed from analysis of satellite and aerial images. A continuous, but variable, activity of the landslide has been observed for almost a half century. Estimates of sediment volumes produced by the landslide highlight the dominant role this erosive structure plays in the overall catchment erosion over the last few years and possibly for the past few decades. Indeed, the landslide-induced erosion rates are in the same range as the total erosion rates, i.e. around 2.5 mm/y. The daily dynamics of the landslide were also studied, as well as the sediment export to the drainage network. The results highlight a decoupling between the displacements and the sediment production within the landslide, and the export of sediment to the river. The baseflow level primarily controls these displacements, while the export is more dependant on the runoff discharge that follows rainfall peaks. Once the slide is set in motion, it keeps moving during the whole monsoon period. However, only intense rainfall events result in an efficient transport of sediment to the river. The annual flux of suspended load were estimated at the Khudi mouth, these roughly agree with the volumes of landslide material. These results confirm the dominant role of the Saituti landslide in the overall catchment erosion and suggest rapid export of the landslide sediment to the river mouth. On the scale of the entire central Himalayas, landslide activity over the last decade highlights a deficit of landslides, compared to independent estimates of secular denudation rates. Nevertheless, this activity is dominated by major events, in the range of several millions cubic metres, such as the Saituti one. The stochastic nature of landslides influences the variability of sediment fluxes in the river. However, this study also highlights that, in medium-sized catchments (around a few hundred square kilometres) such landslides may strongly influence the median concentration of cosmogenic nuclides in river sands. This concentration seems to be primarily dependant on the date and on the magnitude of the last major slide event. In such environments, secular denudation rates estimated from cosmogenic nuclides need to be interpreted very cautiously. The (possibly) long-lasting activity of a few large landslides can then strongly influence the erosion of the Himalayan valleys. This parameter should be taken into account in studies of short- to mid-tem erosion processes as well as in landscape evolution models generally.
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Florian Gallo. Glissements de terrain et érosion des chaînes de montagnes : étude de cas dans l'Himalaya central. Sciences de la Terre. Université de Lorraine, 2014. Français. ⟨NNT : 2014LORR0093⟩. ⟨tel-01750833⟩

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