Mass movements and conservation management in Malta

Dykes, Alan P. (2002) Mass movements and conservation management in Malta. Journal of Environmental Management, 66(1), pp. 77-89. ISSN (print) 0301-4797


Mass movements at an environmentally sensitive but very popular leisure site in Malta were investigated in order to establish whether they were naturally occurring or whether they might in some way have resulted from the chronic long-term degradation of the site. Field surveys of the slopes were undertaken and physical and geotechnical properties of the Maltese Blue Clay Formation, which forms the slopes, were determined from laboratory analysis of samples. Slope stability was analysed using the infinite slope model; analysis of two 1996 mudflows indicates that these mass movements are natural processes. A landslide hazard analysis based on this finding suggested that whilst future mudflows constitute a small hazard, the risk of harm arising from them is even smaller. The implications of this for conservation management of the site are important, given the objective of restoring and then maintaining a natural ecological environment at the site. The mudflows are integral components of this natural environment, shaping the landscape and the ecological communities. The provision of information to visitors constitutes a valuable education and management tool that should further reduce the risk of harm and promote responsible recreational use of the site. However, it is essential that managers understand the nature of all relevant components of an environmentally sensitive site, in order that appropriate management strategies are devised. In the case discussed, these might include avoiding unnecessary future intervention on the clay slopes.

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