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Mountain Torrents and Mass Movements

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Core area Mountain Torrents

The research group „Torrents, Erosion and Landslides” studies processes in open channels and interactions between steep channels and lateral slopes in torrent catchments. The main topics of comprehensive analyses are bed load and deadwood formation, bed load and deadwood transport, channel and surface erosion as well as superficial landslides. Detailed research of the processes provides the necessary basics for hazard mapping and planning and design of mitigating measures. Regarding the latter, eco engineering stabilisation methods and, particularly, modelling and quantification of vegetation covers are of prime interest. Research is based on field and laboratory tests, data analyses, and mechanical modelling. Apart from permanent monitoring stations (e.g. Alptal), specially selected study areas are investigated.


The research results aim to provide improved methods for hazard assessment and planning of sustainable and environmentally compatible slope stabilisation methods. The research group is involved in different WSL projects and programmes and also in national and international research projects. It takes an active part in teaching at university level and keeps close contacts with professionals and agencies engaged in natural hazards.


Core area Mass Movements

Debris flows and rockfalls are rapid, gravitationally driven mass movements that threaten mountain communities in Switzerland and throughout the world.

The Research Group investigates the formation, movement and deposition of this complex geophysical processes to support the development of sound engineering and economically feasible defense strategies.

  • To develop and employ state-of-the-art sensors at field scale observations stations to experimentally identify the important flow characteristics of these movements.
  • To elaborate physical theories describing the granular, multiphase rheology including the complex interaction with the terrain.
  • To numerically model snow avalanches, debris flows and rockfalls. Models are validated using field scale measurements and laboratory experiments.
  • To formulate frequency/magnitude relations describing the starting conditions of catastrophic events. These relations are introduced into hazard mapping procedures.
  • To investigate the interaction of these movements with mountain forests and man-made defense structures such as avalanche dams and rockfall barriers.