Software for quantifying shallow landslide hazards to transportation infrastructure under changing climate and forest management

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh


Critical infrastructure in upland landscapes can be damaged by landslides and debris flows, and managing and mitigating the risks posed to this infrastructure is a key challenge for infrastructure owners. In addition, landslides and debris flows do not respect ownership boundaries, and third party landowners can find themselves liable for mass movements originating from their land, whereas infrastructure owners have to manage hazards from beyond their holdings. In addition, transport owners and maintaining agents must be able to plan on works to be delivered at the right time and in the right place. Planning efficient spending has a number of challenges, including persistent uncertainty in how changes in climate and land use affect future landslide susceptibility and limited capability to make effective use of high resolution digital datasets (e.g. LiDAR surveys) to model landslide scenarios.
This project will develop software for producing landslide hazard maps at regional scales incorporating the highest resolution topographic and land use data. It builds on previous hazard research at the University of Edinburgh and the British Geological Survey, and is built to work in a mulitcore, supercomputing environment--the software can handle big data in the form of very high resolution LiDAR surveys that provide information on slopes at the sub-metre scale: the scale at which mass movements and the hydrology that drive them operate. In addition, the software will be designed to provide scenario modelling. In particular, one of the major drivers in changes in landslide hazard is changing root cohesion from different vegetation patterns along transport corridors. The project will assimilate forestry data from Forest Research so that we can investigate the planting and harvesting schedule that minimised landslide risk, and also determine the time at which transport corridors are most threatened by landsliding. The ultimate objective of the project is to provide a software tool that land owners, infrastructure owners and maintaining agents can use to better plan mitigation and spending strategies.

Planned Impact

The project will design software that enables end-users to model slope instability along specified transport corridors and evaluate the magnitude of changing landslide susceptibility in response to scenarios of land use and climate change. The software will ingest topographic (e.g., BGS Nextmap, EA LiDAR) and land use data (e.g. secondary roads, vegetation type) and run state-of-the-art slope stability analysis. The outputs are hazard data layers in standard GIS formats. This software will form a step-change in performance and scenario modelling opportunities by enabling high-resolution, quick slope stability modelling using more detailed representations of topography and land use/climate change than is currently available. The software is designed to be used on multicore supercomputers available at Edinburgh and BGS. It does not depend on intermediary GIS software as this is unable to efficiently cope with big data. Automation of scenario modelling will enable combined assessment of land use changes (e.g. cutting schedules of Forestry Commissions) and projected climate (e.g. derived from UKCP09) to determine changes in landslide magnitude and frequency along infrastructure corridors. It will therefore form a unique tool for asset owners who need to manage whole life costs of their assets and third partly land owners (e.g., the Forestry Commission) who need to better understand their long-term liabilities.


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Grieve S (2018) Controls on Zero-Order Basin Morphology in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Description We have developed software for investigating the occurrence of landslides that affect transport networks. Our ket findings are:
1) Dangers to infrastructure extend far upslope of transport networks and so topographic analysis immediately adjacent to road networks is insufficient.
2) Many landslides are due to concentrated flow which cannot be detected on 5 metre resolution topographic data (the best currently available national dataset). Getting national lidar coverage is essential.
Exploitation Route We have developed software that can ingest topographic data and highlight areas at risk to landslides.
Sectors Transport

Description Our transient pore pressure model is now being used in collaboration with Telespazio Vega UK in a contract with the European Space Agency.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Transport
Impact Types Economic

Description (FORESEE) - Future proofing strategies FOr RESilient transport networks against Extreme Events
Amount € 4,995,147 (EUR)
Funding ID 769373 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 08/2018 
End 02/2022
Description Space-based Services to support resillient and sustainable Critical Infrastructure - Feasibility study
Amount £300,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Space Agency 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 02/2019 
End 04/2019
Title LSDChannelExtraction v 1.0 
Description Software for extracting channel networks from topographic data 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This software has been used to extract channel information for scientific papers, and also within a collaboration with SEPA (the Scottish environmental Protection Agency). The following statement was provided by Roberto Martinez at SEPA: "Thanks to the data produced using your tools/knowledge we have generated a complete new method for classifying river water bodies at national scale in Scotland. The water bodies were split into different reaches and a river type (cascade, plane riffle, meandering, etc.) was allocated to them. The allocation was based on an new algorithm for which you produced one of the inputs. The typology is used to classify the morphological status in Scotland which is reported in an annual basis using MImAS (Morphological Impact Assessment System)." 
Title LSDTopoTools2 v0.5 
Description Topographic analysis software 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2021 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Topographic analysis software that has been widely used for research publications and by various national and regional agencies such as SEPA, the British Geological Survey, the United States Geological Survey, the Kentucky and West Virginia Geological Surveys, and a number of university-affiliated research groups. 
Description CIRIA Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I presented our landsliding software to a diverse audience, including businesses (Atkins, Arup, Opes International and a number of others), infrastructure owners (Network Rail, HS2 ltd, Highways England), and government (e.g. SEPA) during an interactive webinar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017