Subaquatic slope instabilities: The aftermath of river correction and artificial dumps in Lake Biel (Switzerland)

Dubois, Nathalie; Råman Vinnå, Love; Rabold, Marvin; Hilbe, Michael; Anselmetti, Flavio S.; Wüest, Alfred; Meuriot, Laetitia; Jeannet, Alice; Girardclos, Stéphanie (2020). Subaquatic slope instabilities: The aftermath of river correction and artificial dumps in Lake Biel (Switzerland). Sedimentology, 67(2), pp. 971-990. Wiley 10.1111/sed.12669

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River engineering projects are developing rapidly across the globe, drasti- cally modifying water courses and sediment transfer. Investigation of the impact of engineering works focuses usually on short-term impacts, thus a longer-term perspective is still missing on the effects that such projects have. The ‘Jura Water Corrections’ – the largest river engineering project ever undertaken in Switzerland – radically modified the hydrological system of Lake Biel in the 19th and 20th Century. The deviation of the Aare River into Lake Biel more than 140 years ago, in 1878, thus represents an ideal case study to investigate the long-term sedimentological impacts of such large-scale river rerouting. Sediment cores, along with new high-resolution bathymetric and seismic reflection datasets were acquired in Lake Biel to document the consequences of the Jura Water Corrections on the sedimentation history of Lake Biel. Numerous subaquatic mass transport structures were detected on all of the slopes of the lake. Notably, a relatively large mass transport complex (0·86 km2) was observed on the eastern shore, along the path of the Aare River intrusion. The large amount of sediment delivered by the Aare River since its deviation into the lake likely caused sediment overloading resulting in subaquatic mass transport. Alternatively, the dumping since 1963 in a subaquatic landfill of material excavated during the second phase of river engineering, when the channels flowing into and out of Lake Biel were widened and deepened, might have triggered the lar- gest mass transport, dated to 1964 or 1965. Additional potential triggers include two nearby small earthquakes in 1964 and 1965 (MW 3·9 and 3·2, respectively). The data for this study indicate that relatively large mass transports have become recurrent in Lake Biel following the deviation ofthe Aare River, thus modifying hazard frequency for the neighbouring communities and infrastructure.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Hilbe, Michael and Anselmetti, Flavio


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Flavio Anselmetti

Date Deposited:

24 Feb 2020 12:46

Last Modified:

24 Feb 2020 12:46

Publisher DOI:





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