Distinct rock fragment displacements occur on the ambas, or structurally determined stepped mountains of the Northern Ethiopian Highlands. This paper describes the rock fragment detachment from cliffs by rockfall, quantifies its annual rate, and identifies factors controlling rock fragment movement on the scree slopes. It further presents a conceptual model explaining rock fragment cover at the soil surface in these landscapes. In the May Zegzeg catchment (Dogu'a Tembien district, Tigray), rockfall from cliffs and rock fragment movement on debris slopes by runoff and livestock trampling were monitored over a 4-year period (1998-2001). Rockfall and rock fragment transport mainly induced by livestock trampling appear to be important geomorphic processes. Along a 1500-m long section of the Amba Aradam sandstone cliff, at least 80 t of rocks are detached yearly and fall over a mean vertical distance of 24 m resulting in a mean annual cliff retreat rate of 0.37 mm y(-1). Yearly unit rock fragment transport rates on scree slopes ranged between 23.1 and 37.9 kg m(-1) y(-1). This process is virtually stopped when exclosures are established. Corresponding mean rock fragment transport coefficients K are 32-69 kg m(-1) y(-1) on rangeland but only 3.9 kg m(-1) y(-1) in densely vegetated exclosures. A conceptual model indicates that besides rockfall from cliffs and argillipedoturbation, all factors and processes of rock fragment redistribution in the study area are of anthropogenic origin. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.