Open-access paper: Shallow erosion on grassland slopes in the European Alps – Geomorphological classification, spatio-temporal analysis, and understanding snow and vegetation impacts

In a recent open access publication in the journal Geomorphology we summarize the current knowledge on the main geomorphological processes for Alpine grassland erosion, namely shallow landslides and abrasion by snow movements as well as combinations of both processes. We shortly discuss the basic and variable controlling factors and further present a comprehensive approach for identifying and classifying shallow erosion phenomena and processes. In this context, the possibilities, limitations, and challenges for the use of remote sensing are discussed in detail. Furthermore, the article focuses particularly on the role of snow-related processes, the relationship of erosion and vegetation, and the re-stabilization of affected areas by plants. Finally, we outline the discussion on the impact of land-use and climate change on these shallow erosion processes and identify the main research gaps that should be bridged in order to both better understand and deal with these erosion types on Alpine slopes.

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Geitner, C.; Mayr, A.; Rutzinger, M.; Löbmann, M. T.; Tonin, R.; Zerbe, S.; Wellstein, C.; Markart, G.; Kohl, B. (2021): Shallow erosion on grassland slopes in the European Alps – Geomorphological classification, spatio-temporal analysis, and understanding snow and vegetation impacts. Geomorphology, 373, 107446.

Fig. 1: Shallow erosion system sketch: Linking phenomena, process types, controlling factors, and system conditions. (Geitner et al. 2021, licenced under CC BY 4.0)

Fig. 2: Eroded area mapping in an orthophoto time series. The first and last year of detection for eroded area segments (left and center), and the (minimum) persistence of these segments (right; i.e. duration of the time period where they were classified as bare ground). A darker hillshade denotes the test site extent. (Geitner et al. 2021, licenced under CC BY 4.0)