Earth and Planetary Science Letters vol:256 issue:3-4 pages:588-603
Despite the availability of studies on the frequency density of landslide areas in mountainous regions, frequency-area distributions of historical landslide inventories in populated hilly regions are absent. This study revealed that the frequency-area distribution derived from a detailed landslide inventory of the Flemish Ardennes (Belgium) is significantly different from distributions usually obtained in mountainous areas where landslides are triggered by large-scale natural causal factors such as rainfall, earthquakes or rapid snowmelt. Instead, the landslide inventory consists of the superposition of two populations, i.e. (i) small (<1-2 . 10(-2) km(2)), shallow complex earth slides that are at most 30 yr old, and (ii) large (> 1-2 . 10(-2) km(2)), deep-seated landslides that are older than 100 yr. Both subpopulations are best represented by a negative power-law relation with exponents of -0.58 and -2.31 respectively. This study focused on the negative power-law relation obtained for recent, small landslides, and contributes to the understanding of frequency distributions of landslide areas by presenting a conceptual model explaining this negative power-law relation for small landslides in populated hilly regions. According to the model hilly regions can be relatively stable under the present-day environmental conditions, and landslides are mainly triggered by human activities that have only a local impact on slope stability. Therefore, landslides caused by anthropogenic triggers are limited in size, and the number of landslides decreases with landslide area.