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Physical Geography

ISSN: 0272-3646 (Print) 1930-0557 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tphy20

Slope height and slope gradient controls on the


loess slide size within different slip surfaces

Haijun Qiu, Peng Cui, Amar Deep Regmi, Yanmin Wang & Sheng Hu

To cite this article: Haijun Qiu, Peng Cui, Amar Deep Regmi, Yanmin Wang & Sheng Hu (2017)
Slope height and slope gradient controls on the loess slide size within different slip surfaces,
Physical Geography, 38:4, 303-317, DOI: 10.1080/02723646.2017.1284581

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/02723646.2017.1284581

Published online: 30 Jan 2017.

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Physical Geography, 2017
VOL. 38, NO. 4, 303–317
https://doi.org/10.1080/02723646.2017.1284581

Slope height and slope gradient controls on the loess slide


size within different slip surfaces
Haijun Qiua,b, Peng Cuib, Amar Deep Regmib, Yanmin Wangc and Sheng Hua
a
College of Urban and Environmental Science, Northwest University, Xi’an, China; bInstitute of Mountain
Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, China; cSchool of Chemistry and
Environmental Science, Shaanxi University of Technology, Hanzhong, China
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ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY


Based on intensive landslide surveys and interpretation of remote Received 20 March 2016
sensing images, we established a loess slide inventory map of the Accepted 17 January 2017
Yan’an region in northern Shaanxi province, China. According to their KEYWORDS
slip surfaces, we grouped loess slides into three categories: landslides Landslide; landside size
in loess, red clay contact landslides, and bedrock contact landslides. distribution; slip surface;
Results indicate an obvious power law relationship among loess slope height; slope gradient
slide length, area, and volume. Moreover, landslide size depends
remarkably on the slip surface. The average area and length of red
clay contact landslides are 5.52 and 2.45 times larger than those
of landslides in loess. Intermediate-slope relative height and slope
gradient have a prominent role in landslide formation. The size
distribution of loess slides was examined with respect to the slope
height and slope gradient. The analysis revealed that slope height
and slope gradient were the most dominant controlling factors for
loess slide size. The loess slide became larger with the increasing
relative height of the slope, and there is an obvious linear or power
law relationship between loess slide size and slope relative height. On
the contrary, landslide size gradually decreases as the slope gradient
increases at a certain level.

Introduction
Landslides, one of the recurrent problems that occur completely beyond human control
in steep mountains, account for enormous casualty and property damage in many parts
of the world (Dai & Lee, 2002; Larsen & Torres-Sánchez, 1998). Landslide frequency has
commonly been increasing throughout the world in recent years due to the increase in
population density accompanied by logging, mining, and excavation of slopes for road cuts,
uncontrolled urban sprawl, and unplanned settlement development (Aleotti & Chowdhury,
1999; Greco, Giorgio, Capparelli, & Versace, 2013; Guthrie, 2002).
In China, loess mantles an area of approximately 631,000 km2, which is about 6.6% of
the total area of China (Liu, 1985). It is an aeolian sediment formed by the ­accumulation
of w­ ind-blown dust, which leads to high porosities and low values of bulk density

CONTACT  Haijun Qiu  haijunqiu@nwu.edu.cn


© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
304   H. QIU ET AL.

(Derbyshire,  2001; Derbyshire et al., 1991). The well-developed vertical joints in loess
­significantly influence the hydrological process (Derbyshire, 2001). The characteristic of
collapsibility of loess indicates that it is very sensitive to water (Derbyshire, 2001; Liu, 1985)
and very prone to mass movement processes (Wang, Liang, Zhang, Wu, & Lin, 2014).
Furthermore, with the economic development and increased intensity of human activities
along the Loess Plateau, loess slides have become more frequent in these areas (Derbyshire,
2001; Xu et al., 2014). The loess landslide, which threatens lives and infrastructure, is a major
engineering problem in many loess-covered terrains (Derbyshire, 2001).
Correct characterization of size distribution and frequency of landslides within a given
geographic area plays an increasingly important role in determining landslide susceptibility,
hazard, risk, long-term occurrence of landslides of particular sizes, and the process of geo-
morphic evolution dominated by slope movement (Guthrie & Evans, 2004; Guzzetti et al.,
2008; Harmon & Doe, 2001; Hovius, Stark, & Allen, 1997; Korup, 2005a, 2005b; Soeters &
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van Westen, 1996; Varnes & IAEG Commission on Landslides and other Mass-Movements,
1984). Thus, it is necessary to quantify landslide size distribution relationships by reliable
and accurate methods in many different geological environments (Guzzetti, 2006).
It is well known that various exogenic and endogenic factors, including climatologic,
hydrologic, geologic, and geomorphic conditions, fundamentally contribute to the size
distribution, occurrence, and frequency of landslides (Larsen & Torres-Sánchez, 1998).
Thus, understanding these controlling factors is extremely important for regional l­ andslide
­assessment. However, it is very difficult to correctly identify the factors, as the relationship
between the distribution of landslides and natural conditions varies spatially and tem-
porally (Guzzetti et al., 2008; Weng, Wu, Ning, & Jou, 2011; Zhou, Lee, Li, & Xu, 2002).
Slope ­gradient and slope relative height are generally considered to be fundamental
causative factors that have major control on landslide occurrence, and they are treated
as ­fundamental factors for GIS-based landslide susceptibility assessment in mountainous
terrain (Broothaerts et al., 2012; Dai & Lee, 2002; Timilsina, Bhandary, Dahal, & Yatabe,
2014; Zhou et al., 2002). However, few studies have focused on different size distributions
of loess slides within different slip surfaces. Especially, little attention has been paid to the
quantitative relationships among landslide size, slope relative height, and slope gradient.
Initially, we established a loess slide inventory through the interpretation of remote
sensing images and a series of intensive field investigations. In addition, we have described
a catalog of 155 loess slides in the loess area of China for which geometrical measurements
are available. The main objectives of this paper are (1) to study the quantitative relationships
between regional loess slide size, slope relative height, and slope gradient, (2) to examine
different loess slide distribution rules involving number and area of slides, and (3) to com-
pare the different size distributions of three types of loess slides with different slip surfaces.

Study area
The study area lies in Yan’an, which is located in the middle reaches of the Yellow River in
Shaanxi province (Figure 1). It covers an area of ~36,712 km2 and lies between 35°21′–37°30′N
and 107°40′–110°33′E longitude and latitude, respectively. Elevation in the area ranges from
351 to 1795 m, with an average value of 1238.29 m and a standard deviation of 211.63 m.
Loess terrain is extremely steep, and terrain gradients computed from a 25 m × 25 m DEM
range from 0° to 78.24°, with a mean value of 16.03° (standard deviation = 9.19°; Figure 2).
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY   305
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Figure 1. Location of the study area, Yan’an, Shaanxi province, China.


Note: Red polygon denotes the study area.

The area lies within the semi-arid region of the Loess Plateau, which is characterized by the
typical temperate continental monsoon climate with an average rainfall of 500 mm yr−1,
average evaporation of 1000 mm yr−1, and average air temperature of 9.2 °C yr−1. The area
receives more than 50% of its precipitation in three months, i.e. from June to August. Loess
slides are typically related to precipitation events.
Coupled with intermittent tectonic uplift of the Loess Plateau since the middle Pleistocene,
this area has experienced serious soil erosion, which has resulted in a highly fragmented
topography (Zhang, Pei, Chen, Liu, & Liang, 2014). The surface of the loess is severely
incised by the dendritic drainage pattern (Zhao, Sun, Gmo, Wang, & Zhou, 2000). The
resultant landscape is one of fragmented topography, with steep hills and incised valleys
(Derbyshire, Van Asch, Billard, & Meng, 1995; Zhao et al., 2000). The vertical lithological
profile from bottom to top can be categorized into five units. The bottom is Mesozoic
306   H. QIU ET AL.
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Figure 2. Slope gradient map of the study area derived from 25-m grid DEMs.

bedrock, mainly consisting of mudstone and sandy mudstone. Red clay (Late Pliocene)
overlies a Pre-Tertiary basement. The oldest. Wucheng Loess (Early Pleistocene), is on the
top of the red clay and has high bulk densities (>1.7 kg/m3) (Wang et al., 2014). The Lishi
loess (Middle Quaternary) lies between the Wucheng loess and the Malan loess (Upper
Quaternary). The upper layer is composed of Malan loess, whose bulk densities are low
(<1.45 kg/m3) (Derbyshire et al., 1995).

Landslide data
Landslide inventory helps to document the landslide phenomena in an area, as well as to
study landslide type, size, occurrence, distribution, and frequency to determine landslide
susceptibility, hazard, vulnerability, and risk, and to investigate the evolution of landscapes
dominated by slope failure processes (Guzzetti et al., 2012). Meanwhile, landslide inventories
are simple and effective, understandable forms for experts, including geomorphologists and
geologists, and non-experts, such as planners and decision makers as well as local com-
munities and local administrations (Galli, Ardizzone, Cardinali, Guzzetti, & Reichenbach,
2008). So landslide inventory is becoming more and more popular as a spatial database
(Korup, 2005b).
In this work, a landslide inventory was prepared as a preliminary step so that loess
landslide data could be the basis for statistical analysis. Loess landslides are widespread and
play a crucial role in the modern landscape evolution of the Loess Plateau. Translational
types of slides predominate the loess landslides in the study area (Cruden & Varnes, 1996;
Varnes, 1978). Loess slides were identified through interpretation of high-resolution remote
sensing images and 1:10,000-scale color aerial photographs (from 2010 to 2014). Google
Earth images were also widely used for accurate detection of loess slides. Furthermore, we
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY   307

have used previously published and unpublished reports for gathering historical information
about loess slides. A series of intensive field investigations in 2015 were used to validate the
inventory maps, check the loess slide sizes and shapes, and identify the types of slip surfaces.
During the field survey, we observed several loess slides and some important geomor-
phologic characteristics that were not visible on aerial photographs. However, our field trip
was limited since only areas along major and minor roads were accessible. In the present
research, we have focused on recent loess slides, which are active or inactive. Active loess
slides are currently moving or reactivated old slides, while inactive loess slides have shown
distinct features of movements within the past 30 yr although they did not show any sign
of movement during the investigation period. Most of the recent loess slides observed on
high-resolution images have a distinctive light tone, which is usually bare or with less veg-
etation. However, field investigation is crucial to check the visual similarity between bare
soils and loess slides. There are several reactive loess slides, but we could not detect any
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instances in which multiple events had occurred in overlapping sites.


During this regional reconnaissance, a total number of 155 loess slides were identified
and subsequently mapped for further analysis (Figure 3). A handheld-GPS was used to
map loess slides as polygons. A handheld laser was used to accurately measure loess slide
length and width. Although we tried our best to map all of the loess slides, the inventory is
incomplete because features of loess slides may not be recognized due to erosion, vegetation,
and anthropic activities. Computations of loess slide areas are possible and straightforward
when loess slides are transferred to a GIS system. Thus, all the loess slides and other the-
matic information layers were mapped and transformed into a GIS database (ArcGIS by
Esri) in both vector and raster format. A digital elevation model (DEM) with a resolution

Figure 3. Location map of mapped loess slides in this study area.


Note: The sizes of white dots represent the log-transformed loess slide areas.
308   H. QIU ET AL.

of 25 m × 25 m was developed from 1:25,000 scale topographic maps. Drainage lines were
automatically obtained from the DEM using the hydrological tool in ArcGIS.
As shown in Figure 3, the loess slides are not evenly distributed, and the spatial dis-
tribution of loess slides is related to the drainage system, as the majority of loess slides
appear to occur in proximity to a river. In order to minimize errors, two geomorphologists
independently identified and mapped loess slides. These two inventories were critically
reviewed and merged. Several landslide geometrical and geomorphic characteristics, includ-
ing geographical location, slip surface, volume, area, length, slope relative height, and slope
gradient, were recorded and listed as the attribute table in Arc GIS. We calculated the loess
slide volume as the product of the area and estimated mean depth depending on the available
data. A statistical analysis was carried out on the loess slide inventory to explore the loess
slide size-frequency distribution, as well as to investigate the relationships between loess
slide size with respect to slope height and slope gradient.
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Results
Landslide types and size
We grouped the loess slides into three classes by slip surface: landslide in loess (LL; Figure
4(A)), red clay contact landslide (RCL; Figure 4(B)), and bedrock contact landslide (BL;
Figure 4(C)). We recorded 155 individual landslides with their detailed information. The

Figure 4. Three loess slides with different slip surfaces: (A) Landslide in loess (LL), (B) Red clay contact
landslide (RCL), and (C) Bedrock contact landslide (BL).
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY   309

Figure 5. Box plots showing length (A) and area (B) of three loess slides with different slip surfaces.
Note: Mean length and area are shown by a small square, the median by a middle line.
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majority of loess slides were RCLs and BLs, which make up 39.35 and 45.16% of total loess
slides, respectively. LLs account for 11.61% of total loess slides. As shown in Figure 5, the
average size of three loess slide classes follows as RCL > BL > LL. Average areas and lengths
of the three classes are RCL 96,794.39 m2 and 232.67 m, BL 58,648.97 m2 and 191.00 m, and
LL 17,539.68 m2 and 94.96 m, respectively. The average area and length of RCL are 5.52 and
2.45 times larger than those dimensions of LL. Further inspection of Figure 5 reveals that the
numbers of RCL, BL, and LL with lengths < 200 m account for 55.56, 54.10, and 87.32% of
those classes, respectively. Similarly, the numbers of RCL, BL, and LL with areas < 105 m2 are
66.67, 80.33, and 98.59%, respectively. Large (106–107 m3), medium (105–106 m3), and small
(<105 m3) loess slides account for 22.22, 55.56, and 22.22% respectively in RCLs. Similarly,
large, medium, and small loess slides account for 4.22, 47.89, and 47.89%, respectively in
LLs. The percentage of large loess slides of RCLs is 5.26 times larger than that of LLs.

Interdependent relationship among parameters of loess slides


We adopted a robust linear fitting method to fit the power law relationship (an equation of
the form VL = ε × ALα, where ε and α are constants) in log-log coordinates between land-
slides volume (VL) and area (AL) (Figure 6(A)). Although the area and volume span multiple
orders of magnitude, visual inspection of Figure 6(A) indicates an obvious, distinct, linear
(in log–log coordinates) relationship between volume and area of loess slides. This suggests
that there is a self-similar behavior between landslide area and volume. The relationship
accords with VLL = 0.5829ALL1.2996 (R² = 0.8838, p < 0.01) for LLs, VBL = 0.7115ABL1.2287
(R² = 0.8985, p < 0.01) for BLs, and VRCL = 1.3662ARCL1.1372 (R² = 0.9148, p < 0.01) for RCLs,
respectively. In addition, the relationship between area and length fits ALL = 31.389LLL1.3412
(R² = 0.7328, p < 0.01) for LLs, ABL = 2.9968LBL1.8358 (R² = 0.8506, p < 0.01) for BLs, and
ARCL = 5.0158LRCL1.7556 (R² = 0.9424, p < 0.01) for RCLs.

Distribution of loess slides with slope relative height and slope gradient
Loess slide distributions against slope relative height and slope gradient were investigated
in detail (Figure 7). Slope relative height values were divided into 25-m class intervals. The
percentage of landslide numbers and areas greatly increases with a subsequent decline at
all slope relative heights from 9 to 200 m (Figure 7(A)). About 67.10% of the loess slides
310   H. QIU ET AL.

Figure 6. Interdependent relationships among parameters of loess slides: (A) volume and area, (B) area
and length.
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Figure 7. Number and area distribution of loess slide with slope relative height and slope gradient: (A)
distribution percentage against slope relative height, (B) distribution percentage against slope gradient.

occur on slopes with relative heights of 25–100 m. The number and the area of loess slides
peak where slope relative heights are 75 and 100 m, and 100 and 125 m, respectively. Where
slope relative heights < 75 m, the percentage of loess slides is greater than that of the loess
slide area, but the percentage of the number of loess slides is less than that of the loess slide
area where slope relative height > 75 m.
Similarly, as shown in Figure 7(B), slope gradient is divided into 10o intervals. About
81.58% of the loess slides occur within slope gradients of 20°–50°. The numbers and areas
of loess slides are skewed towards lower slope gradients, with two peaks, at 20°–30° and
30°–40°. The percentage of loess slides is less than the percentage of loess slide area within
the slope gradient < 30°. But, the percentage of the number of loess slides becomes higher
than the percentage of loess slide area at the slope gradient > 30°.

Relationship between loess slide size distribution and slope relative height
As shown in Figure 8(A), the loess slide length becomes larger with increasing slope relative
height. There are obvious linear relationships between RCL length (LRCL) and slope relative
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY   311
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Figure 8. Relation between landslide length and slope relative height: (A) Red clay contact landslide (RCL),
(B) Bedrock contact landslide (BL), and (C) Landslide in loess (LL).

height (SHRCL) which can be modeled by linear function: LRCL = 4.4257 SHRCL −138.11
(R2 = 0.8532, p  <  0.01). Figure 8(B) illustrates the significant linear correlation between
BL length (LBL) and slope relative height (SHBL): LBL = 2.1725 SHBL−11.795 (R2 = 0.5988,
p < 0.01). Figure 8(C) shows that there is a power law relationship between LL length (LLL)
and slope relative height (SHLL): LLL = 1.9734 SHLL0.8717 (R2 = 0.2996, p < 0.01).
Similarly, the loess slide area markedly increases with the increase in slope relative height.
The loess slide area and slope relative height relations agree with the power law correlation
(Figure 9(A–C). Figure 9(A) shows the curves of RCL area (LRCL) against slope relative height
(SHRCL): ARCL = 0.091 SHRCL2.9953 with R2 = 0.7611 and p < 0.01. Figure 9(B) indicates that
there is an obvious distinct linear (in log–log coordinates) relationship between BL area
(ABL) and slope relative height (SHBL): ABL = 1.2905SHBL2.2827 with R2 = 0.6083 and p < 0.01.
The LL area (ALL) and slope relative height (SHLL) can be approximated by a power law
(ALL = 29.034SHLL1.4162 with R2 = 0.322 and p < 0.01) (Figure 9(C)).

Relationship between loess slide size distribution and slope gradient


Different from the highly significant relationship between loess slide size and slope rel-
ative height, the loess slide size appears to be roughly associated with slope gradient.
No statistically significant correlation was observed between LL size and slope gradient.
312   H. QIU ET AL.
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Figure 9. Relation between landslide area and slope relative height: (A) Red clay contact landslide (RCL),
(B) Bedrock contact landslide (BL), and (C) Landslide in loess (LL).

Figure 10. Relation between landslide length and slope: (A) Red clay contact landslide (RCL) and (B)
Bedrock contact landslide (BL).

However, RCL and BL sizes are more likely to be related to slope gradient at a certain level
of significance. The loess slide size gradually decreases with as slope gradient increases.
As illustrated in Figure 10(A) and (B), linear relationships are found between slope
gradient and both RCL and BL lengths, as (LRCL = −16.266SRCL + 730.6 with R² = 0.2223
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY   313

Figure 11. Relation between landslide area and slope: (A) Red clay contact landslide (RCL), and (B) Bedrock
contact landslide (BL).
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and p < 0.05, LBL = −6.70SBL + 405.16 with R² = 0.2921 and p < 0.01). By analogy, a linear


relationship is also observed between slope gradient and both the RCL and BL area, as
(ARCL = −9021.4SRCL + 372,950 with R² = 0.1913 and p < 0.1, ABL = −2984.1SBL + 153,992 with
R² = 0.2198 and p < 0.01) (Figure 11 (A and B)).

Discussion
In this study, we have shown that the average size of three classes of loess slides followed
the order: RCL > BL > LL. The overwhelming majority of loess slides in the Yan’an region
are small and their size (e.g. length, area) varies greatly. Slide length and area vary from few
meters to several hundred of meters and from < 102 to 105 m2, respectively. Although loess
slide sizes span multiple orders of magnitude, we found an obvious power law relationship
among loess slide length, area, and volume, which suggests that there is self-similar behavior
for loess slide size. The percentages of loess slide number and area greatly increase with
a subsequent decline at all slope gradient and slope relative heights. However, there are
different distribution rules for the loess slide number and area (Figure 7). Further analysis
reveals that the size of loess slides becomes larger as slope relative height increases, and there
exists an obvious linear or power law relationship between loess slide size and slope relative
height. On the contrary, despite considerable data scatter, the trend of the plot of length and
area of loess slides against slope gradient shows that loess slide size gradually decreases with
an increase in slope gradient at a certain level of significance (Figures 10 and 11).
The present research shows a significant difference in the loess slide size distribution
within different slip surfaces. The average area and length of RCL are 5.52 and 2.45 times
larger than those dimensions of LL. This implies that landslide size depends on the charac-
teristics of the study area and landslide types (Conforti, Pascale, Robustelli, & Sdao, 2014;
Glade, Anderson, & Crozier, 2005). In accordance with most of the published literature
(Guzzetti, Ardizzone, Cardinali, Rossi, & Valigi, 2009), three relationships between the
volume and area of landslides exhibit a similar trend, but scaling exponents, which are
1.2996, 1.2287, and 1.1372 for LL, BL, and RCL, respectively, are obviously different. The
relationships between landslide size distribution and both the slope relative height and
314   H. QIU ET AL.

slope gradient also differ from each other. This implies that we should consider different
results from different slip surfaces when a model is proposed to determine landslide hazard.
Slope relative height is an important factor that limits the magnitude and spatial extent
of landslides (Ayalew & Yamagishi, 2005; Qiu et al., 2016). In this paper, the loess slide fre-
quency-slope height distribution is unimodal. The loess slide frequency is highest within
slope height ranging between 75 and 100 m, and the frequency of landslides is lower at
high and low slope relative heights. Furthermore, we found that loess slide area and length
markedly increased with an increase in slope relative height, which show an obvious linear
or power law relationship. This indicates that slope relative height has a striking effect on
landslide size and frequency; as a result, it can be utilized as an important predisposing factor
in landslide prediction and assessment in the future (Conforti et al., 2014; Dai & Lee, 2002).
Slope gradient is significantly correlated with the susceptibility of a slope to sliding
(Ayalew & Yamagishi, 2005). High gradients are associated with high shear stresses on
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hillslope materials. Thus, it is seen that steep slopes are usually expected to be more unstable
and more prone to sliding than gentle slopes (Borgomeo, Hebditch, Whittaker, & Lonergan,
2014; Nagarajan, Roy, Kumar, Mukherjee, & Khire, 2000). However, in the present research,
we found that the loess slide frequency- slope gradient distribution is unimodal, and that
approximately 81.58% of the loess slides occurred in areas with slope gradients between
20° and 50°. Similar landslide frequency-slope gradient distributions have been obtained
by previous researchers (Dai & Lee, 2002; Frattini & Crosta, 2013; Goswami, Mitchell, &
Brocklehurst, 2011). This suggests that landslide occurrence is dependent on several geo-
morphic characteristics, including the slope gradient (Borgomeo et al., 2014). In addition,
the gentler the slope gradient, the thicker the soil cover (Nagarajan et al., 2000). Ayalew
and Yamagishi (2005) even pointed out that deep-seated landslides occur when the slope
gradient is in the range of 10°–35°. Moreover, we found the regional RCL and BL size
(length and area) more likely to be related to slope gradient at a certain significance level
in this research. Loess slide size gradually decreases as slope gradient increases. This result
is similar to the result of Chen, Liu, Chang, and Zhou (2015), who found that the landslide
size decreases with increasing slope gradient for a given material strength, but differs from
that of Katz, Morgan, Aharonov, and Dugan (2014), who found that large landslides are
associated with higher slope gradients. In previous studies, many authors considered slope
gradient as an important factor for GIS-based regional landslide susceptibility assessment
because it controls regional hydraulic continuity at the macro-scale and affects moisture
and pore pressure (Ayalew & Yamagishi, 2005; Broothaerts et al., 2012; Dai & Lee, 2002;
Timilsina et al., 2014; Zhou et al., 2002). However, little attention has been paid to the
relationship between landslide size and slope gradient.
It should be noted that this study examined only slope relative height and slope gradient
due to limitations of data and the length of the paper. In future, we will further study the
relationship between loess slide size and other causative factors. Moreover, we will apply
the results of the present study to improve the approach of regional landslide susceptibility
assessment.

Conclusions
The overwhelming majority of loess slides in the Yan’an region are small and their size (e.g.
length, area) varies greatly. Although loess slide size spans multiple orders of magnitude,
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY   315

there exists an obvious power law relationships and self-similar behavior among loess slide
length, area, and volume. Moreover, landslide size depends on the slip surface. The average
area and length of red clay contact landslides are 5.52 and 2.45 times larger than those
dimensions of landslides in loess. Intermediate slope relative heights and slope gradients
are more prone to landslides. However, there are different distribution rules for the loess
slide number and area. The size distribution of loess slides was examined with respect to
the slope height and slope gradient. The analysis revealed that the loess slide size becomes
larger as slope relative height increases, and that an obvious linear or power law relation-
ship occurs between loess slide size and slope relative height. On the contrary, loess slide
size gradually decreases with an increase in slope gradient at a certain level of significance.
The results of this work provides new insight into the understanding of the roles of slope
height and slope gradient in controlling landslide size, which may prove useful for regional
landslide susceptibility assessment.
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Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for helpful and fruitful com-
ments which greatly improved the quality of the manuscript.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Funding
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [grant number
41401602]; International Partership Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences [grant number
131551KYSB20160002]; Natural Science Basic Research Plan in Shaanxi Province of China [pro-
gram number 2014JQ2-4021].

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