How size and trigger matter: analyzing rainfall- and earthquake-triggered landslide inventories and their causal relation in the Koshi River basin, central Himalaya
Inventories of landslides caused by different triggering mechanisms, such as earthquakes, extreme rainfall events or anthropogenic activities, may show different characteristics in terms of distribution, contributing factors and frequency–area relationships. The aim of this research is to study such differences in landslide inventories and the effect they have on landslide susceptibility assessment. The study area is the watershed of the transboundary Koshi River in the central Himalaya, shared by China, Nepal and India. Detailed landslide inventories were generated based on visual interpretation of remote-sensing images and field investigation for different time periods and triggering mechanisms. Maps and images from the period 1992 to 2015 were used to map 5858 rainfall-triggered landslides, and after the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, an additional 14 127 coseismic landslides were mapped. A set of topographic, geological and land cover factors were employed to analyze their correlation with different types and sizes of landslides. The frequency–area distributions of rainfall- and earthquake-triggered landslides (ETLs) have a similar cutoff value and power-law exponent, although the ETLs might have a larger frequency of a smaller one. In addition, topographic factors varied considerably for the two triggering events, with both altitude and slope angle showing significantly different patterns for rainfall-triggered and earthquake-triggered landslides. Landslides were classified into two size groups, in combination with the main triggering mechanism (rainfall- or earthquake-triggered). Susceptibility maps for different combinations of landslide size and triggering mechanism were generated using logistic regression analysis. The different triggers and sizes of landslide data were used to validate the models. The results showed that susceptible areas for small- and large-size rainfall- and earthquake-triggered landslides differed substantially.