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Catchment Sediment Dynamics and the Role of Deep-Seated Landslide-Dams; Waipaoa Catchment, Raukumara Peninsula, New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-12, 00:58 authored by Taylor, Richard James

Sediment volumes retained by landslide-dams of the Waipaoa are small at 1.85x10⁶m³ compared to the 24.5km³ (Marden et al., 2008b) of sediment eroded in the landscape since the last glacial maximum. Landslide-dams do however represent a major perturbation to sediment transport, although due to their mainly short life span this disruption is discontinuous representing a pulsing in the transport network. The objective of this study is to investigate the sedimentary dynamics of the Waipaoa catchment by providing insights into the role that deep-seated landslides play and asks the questions: What is the impact on sediment transport imposed by the landslide-dams of the Waipaoa catchment? and; What do the sediments impounded in landslide-dammed lakes tell us about catchment sediment dynamics through time? The Waipaoa River on the East Cape of New Zealand‘s North Island delivers volumes of sediment to the coast which are considered high by global standards. Catchment erosion is controlled by soft marine sediments, combined with a history of tectonic fracturing and frequent intense rain storms. Erosion events are driven by intense cyclonic systems rain storms which deliver ≥200mm/24hr rainfall and induce catchment wide gully erosion as well as shallow surficial landslides. Under current land covers gully erosion provides the dominant source of sediments, with high degrees of slope channel coupling and steep gradient river profiles providing for efficient delivery to the coast. Offshore in the Poverty Bay, sediments delivered by the Waipaoa River show considerable variability over a range of temporal scales. Valley slopes within the Waipaoa catchment are also susceptible to large deep-seated landslide failures, with movement depths greater than 5 metres often on internal structural failure planes. These large slope movements can be produced by both extreme storm events (≥300mm/24hr) which occur on a return periods of 1 in 5 years and seismic ground shaking of 1 in 1000-2000 years. Where these large events block channels and are able to persist for long periods, sediments accumulated upstream to provide a unique record of the catchments sedimentary history. There have been some 1100 historic large scale features which have been identified within the Waipaoa region, with this study selecting seven that have shown evidence of channel blockage. The project aims to provide insights into the age of a sample of deep-seated landslides that have dammed channels to determine how long landslide-dams survive in the landscape and quantify the volumes of sediment they have trapped. Further, the project aims to determine what the spatial and temporal distribution of these blockages has meant to sediment delivery and whether there have been changes in sediment dynamics in their upper catchments over time. The project uses the detailed mapping of the trapped body of sediments, GIS modelling of the palaeo and present landscapes and age control determinations provided by tephra and 14C dating to provide both volumes and rates of sediment delivery.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Physical Geography

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Newnham, Rewi; Alloway, Brent; Page, Mike