Factors triggering landslide occurrence on the Zemun loess plateau, Belgrade area, Serbia

Tin Lukic, Dajana Bjelajac, Kathryn E. Fitzsimmons, Slobodan B. Markovic, Biljana Basarin, Dragan Mladan, Tanja Micic, Randall J. Schaetzl, Milivoj B. Gavrilov, Miško Milanovic, György Sipos, Gábor Mezosi, Nevenka Knezevic-Lukic, Miroljub Milincic, Aleš Létal, and Ivan Samardzic

Among the numerous factors that trigger landslide events, the anthropogenic impact caused by inadequate planning and faulty land use in urban areas is increasing. The Zemun settlement on the northern outskirts of Belgrade has experienced a number of landslides in the last three decades, endangering buildings and roads, and claiming human lives, particularly in the case of the 2010/2011 landslides. Selected meteorological parameters were used to calculate rainfall erosivity indices such as Precipitation Concentration Index and Modified Fournier Index over the period 1991–2015. Drought indices, Lang aridity index and Palfai Drought Index were calculated as well. Mann–Kendall trend test was applied to identify potential rising and/or declining trends both in meteorological parameters and calculated indices. Trend analysis of the annual and seasonal scales yielded a statistically significant trend in the spring time series. Stable arid and pronounced drought conditions were recorded. The modified Fournier index based on monthly mean values yields moderate aggressiveness, with several extreme values indicating very high erosivity classes, especially for 2010/2011. The geological substrate is predominantly loess and hence highly susceptible to erosion and slope failure when climatological conditions are suitable. Accelerated urbanization at the end of the last century reduced vegetation cover, intensified pressure on the vertical loess slope, and lacked suitable rain drainage systems so that surface-water runoff was directed into the porous loess, thereby endangering slope stability. We proposed a geomorphic model to describe the nature of the erosional processes on the loess cliffs of the Zemun loess plateau. Results from this study have implications for mitigation strategies.