A spatial data base of 1609 landslides was analysed using a geographic information system to determine landslide frequency in relation to highways. A 126 km long transportation network in a 201km2 area of humid-tropical, mountainous, forested terrain in Puerto Rico was used in conjunction with a series of 20 buffer (disturbance) zones varying from 5 to 400m in length, measured perpendicular to the highways. Average landslide frequency in the study area at distances greater than 85m from roads was about six landslides per square kilometre. At distances of 85m or less on either side of a highway, landslide frequency was about 30 landslides per square kilometre. On average, this elevated disturbance rate affected 330m2km-2a-1 within the 170m swath. The mass-wasting rate outside of the disturbance zone affected 40m2km-2 a-1. These results indicate that the rate of mass-wasting disturbance is increased from five to eight times in a 170m wide swath along road corridors. The lateral extent of the environmental impact of roads in the study area is greater than is commonly perceived. The approach described herein demonstrates a simple method to assess the spatial association of mass-wasting with highways. ?? 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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How wide is a road? The association of roads and mass-wasting in a forested montane environment