Geomorphology ( IF 3.819 ) Pub Date : 2020-10-03 , DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2020.107446 Clemens Geitner; Andreas Mayr; Martin Rutzinger; Michael Tobias Löbmann; Rita Tonin; Stefan Zerbe; Camilla Wellstein; Gerhard Markart; Bernhard Kohl
Erosion with the subsequent loss of soil and soil fertility is one of the urgent environmental problems worldwide. On grassland slopes from the montane to the alpine elevation zones of the European Alps, shallow erosion is a widespread and regionally increasing phenomenon. This group of mechanical denudation processes includes shallow landslides and nival abrasion (i.e., by snow gliding and avalanches), which are displacing patches of vegetation, soil and unconsolidated material. The resulting bare ground areas as well as the dislocated material are susceptible to further transport by water, snow, or wind. Our review summarizes the current knowledge on the main geomorphological processes for Alpine grassland erosion, namely shallow landslides and abrasion by snow movements as well as combinations of both processes. We shortly discuss the basic and variable controlling factors and further present a comprehensive approach for identifying and classifying shallow erosion phenomena and processes. In this context, the possibilities, limitations, and challenges for identification, classification and analysis of these processes by remote sensing are discussed in detail. Furthermore, the article focuses particularly on the role of snow-related processes, the relationship of erosion and vegetation, and the re-stabilization of affected areas by plants. Finally, we outline the discussion on the impact of land-use and climate change on these shallow erosion processes and identify the main research gaps that should be bridged in order to both better understand and deal with these erosion types on Alpine slopes.