Natural Dams


Natural dams

Project term: 2016 - today

  Landslide Copyright: © LIH A retrogressive landslide in the Peace River Region, British Columbia, Canada blocked a small river and continues to deliver high sediment loads to the river network.

Large landslides are common occurrences in all mountainous regions, such as the glacially carved Ötz Valley in Tyrol (Austria) or where rivers dissect the landscape in the rolling plains of the Peace River region in British Columbia (Canada). They can fully block a valley, dam the river and create lakes that may persist for decades to millennia. Landslide dams in these two regions range in age from the Young Dryas to recent, in material from crystalline rock to glacial till, and in longevity from months to millennia. These two regions served to study the longevity of landslide dams, to test stability criteria in different materials and settings, and to investigate their long-term landscape impacts (Dufresne et al. 2018; Miller et al. 2018).

A world-wide team of experts headed by Prof. Dr. Xuanmei Fan (State Key Laboratory, Chengdu University, China) and Dr. Anja Dufresne (RWTH University Aachen) currently reviews the state of the art of landslide dam research and compiles a comprehensive database on landslide dams from around the world (Fan et al. 2020 and in review).


  • Fan X, Dufresne A, Whiteley J, Yunus AP, Subramanian SS, Okeke A, Pánek T, Hermanns R, Ming P, Strom A, Havenith HB, Dunning SA, Wang G, Tacconi Stefanelli C (in review). Recent technological and methodological advances for the investigations of landslide dams. Earth-Science Reviews
  • Fan X, Dufresne A, Subramanian SS, Strom A, Hermanns R, Tacconi Stefanelli C, Hewitt K, Pulpadan YA, Dunning SA, Capra L, Geertsema M, Miller B, Casagli N, Jansen JD, Xu Q (2020). The formation and impact of landslide dams – state of the art. Earth-Science Reviews 203: 103116
  • Dufresne A, Ostermann MA, Preusser F (2018). River-damming, late-Quaternary rockslides in the Ötz Valley region (Tyrol, Austria). Geomorphology 310: 153-167.
  • Miller BGN, Dufresne A, Geertsema M, Atkinson N, Evensen H, Cruden DM (2018). Longevity of dams from landslides with sub-channel rupture surfaces, Peace River region, Canada. Geoenvironmental Disasters 5(1):