Reconstruction of river valley evolution before and after the emplacement of the giant Seymareh rock avalanche (Zagros Mts., Iran)

Delchiaro, Michele; Della Seta, Marta; Martino, Salvatore; Dehbozorgi, Maryam; Nozaem, Reza

The Seymareh landslide, detached ∼10 ka from the northeastern flank of the Kabir-kuh fold (Zagros Mts., Iran), is recognized worldwide as the largest rock slope failure (44 Gm3) ever recorded on the exposed Earth surface. Detailed studies have been performed that have described the landslide mechanism and different scenarios have been proposed for explaining the induced landscape changes. The purpose of this study is to provide still missing time constraints on the evolution of the Seymareh River valley, before and after the emplacement of the Seymareh landslide, to highlight the role of geomorphic processes both as predisposing factors and as response to the landslide debris emplacement.

We used optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) to date lacustrine and fluvial terrace sediments, whose plano-altimetric distribution has been correlated to the detectable knickpoints along the Seymareh River longitudinal profile, allowing the reconstruction of the evolutionary model of the fluvial valley. We infer that the knickpoint migration along the main river and the erosion wave propagation upstream through the whole drainage network caused the stress release and the ultimate failure of the rock mass involved in the landslide. We estimated that the stress release activated a mass rock creep (MRC) process with gravity-driven deformation processes occurring over an elapsed time-to-failure value on the order of 102 kyr. We estimated also that the Seymareh damming lake persisted for ∼3500 years before starting to empty ∼6.6 ka due to lake overflow. A sedimentation rate of 10 mm yr−1 was estimated for the lacustrine deposits, which increased up to 17 mm yr−1 during the early stage of lake emptying due to the increased sediment yield from the lake tributaries. We calculated an erosion rate of 1.8 cm yr−1 since the initiation of dam breaching by the Seymareh River, which propagated through the drainage system up to the landslide source area.

The evolutionary model of the Seymareh River valley can provide the necessary constraints for future stress–strain numerical modeling of the landslide slope to reproduce the MRC and demonstrate the possible role of seismic triggering in prematurely terminating the creep-controlled time-to-failure pathway for such an extremely large case study.



Delchiaro, Michele / Della Seta, Marta / Martino, Salvatore / et al: Reconstruction of river valley evolution before and after the emplacement of the giant Seymareh rock avalanche (Zagros Mts., Iran). 2019. Copernicus Publications.


Rechteinhaber: Michele Delchiaro et al.

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