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Scuola di Dottorato in Scienze della Terra,

Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova – A.A. 2012-2013


Ph.D. candidate: ENRICO BUSNARDO, I course
Cycle: XVIII

Abstract (150 words)

Landslides, during rainy periods, frequently hit the hilly region of the Vicenza province, involving weathered Tertiary
Volcanic deposits and exposing human activities to damage. I focused my research on the mineralogical and geotechnical
behaviour of the deposits that trigger the two types of movement: an earth slid, in Fara Vicentino and an earth flow in
Cornedo Vicentino. I analyzed the fine portion (silt and clay) that constitute more than the 80% of whole sample. Geotechnical
indexes were obtained by Atterber Limits and sieve analyses, and mineralogical characteristics by x-ray powder diffraction
(XRD) of whole sample and thin portion. I identified two distinct mineralogical patterns: Fara landslide is characterized by a
great variability in swelling properties, while Cornedo landslide, on the contrary, exhibits an almost constant swelling
properties. The next step will be an in-depth-analysis concerning both rheologic of the deposits and microtexture.

Full Report

Landslides, during rainy periods, frequently hit the hilly region of the province of Vicenza. As a result
human activities are exposed to damage. I am going to study the predisposing factors and the relationship
between them, in order to define diagnostic parameters.
The study area belong to the Monti Lessini–Marosticano area. In particular, it is represented by the
volcanic districts of the Lessini Mts., between the Castelvero and Schio-Vicenza lineaments, of middle
Paleocene to upper Oligocene age and by the Marosticano area of middle-upper Oligocene to Miocene
age. The magmatic products of these areas are prevailingly basic to ultrabasic volcanic rocks which
belong to an alkaline (mela-nephelinites, nephelinites, basanites, alkali basalts, hawaiites, trachybasalts)
and to moderately sub-alkaline series (transitional basalts, basaltic andesites) (Bellieni, 2010).
Volcanic deposits occupy 56% of the entire study area surface, Limestone 25% and Quaternary
deposits 45%. The 56% of landslides reported into the Italian Landslides Database (IFFI) involved
weathered Tertiary Volcanics deposits, the 17% Limestone and the 27% Quaternary Deposits. The
landslides on weathered Volcanics rocks are mainly of two types: earth slide and earth flow.
The large number of landslides involving weathered Volcanic rocks induced us to study in deep such
phenomena. In particular, I took as examples Fara Vicentino earth slide andCornedo Vicentino earth flow.
Fara Vicentino Cornedo Vicentino
type earth slide earth flow
exposure West facing South-East facing
slope (°) 10-15 25
crown (m) 85-90 m 20
max. altitude (m a.s.l.) 240 m 395
min. altitude (m a.s.l.) 215 m 370
altitude gap (m) 25 25
slip surface depth (m) 6-7 4

First of all, in order to define a geological and geotechnical framework, I studied 30 preliminary
designs provided by the province of Vicenza together with bibliographic data available in scientific
literature. Second of all, I collected 50 samples from Fara landslide, with 0.2 m sampling step: samples
from 1 to 25 were collected in situ from a vertical dugout. Samples from 26 to 50 were collected from a
core box of a previous survey. Then, considering the probable depth of the slip surface, I decided to
collect 30 samples from Cornedo landslide. Samples from 1 to 25 were collected with sampling step of
0,2 m; samples from 26 to 30 were collected with 1 m sampling step. Finally, since volcanic weathering
Scuola di Dottorato in Scienze della Terra,
Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova – A.A. 2012-2013

processes lead to formation of mainly silty and clayey deposits, I concentrate my attention both to
geotechnical and to mineralogical features of fine-grained soils, starting from the hypothesis that the more
clay content increases the more frictional resistance decreases (Shuzui, 2001). Thus, weathering products
of rock mass (i.e. clayey deposits) contributes to landslide occurrence because of their chemical and
physical properties (Yalcin, 2007). In the study case, fine-grained soils constitute more than the 70% of
whole sample. Geotechnical indexes were obtained by sieve analyses and Atterber Limits. The latter
define the transition between different soil states, and they were adopted in geotechnical engineering as a
formal way of classifying clayey and silty soils (Casey, 2013). Then, using x-ray powder diffraction
(Klein, 2004) of whole sample and of thin portion we define the mineralogical phases and using the
Rietveld method (Rietveld, 1969) we determine the mass percentage of the phases of the samples.


Geological and geotechnical framework

The tables below show the Geological and geotechnical framework extrapolated by the archive of the
province of Vicenza.
Eastern Lessini
layer description thickness [m] γ [kN/m3] CU[kPa] ø’ [°]
A Organic matter and surface soils 0.0-5.2
B1 clay loam of low to medium consistency 1.0-8.0 16 0-30 37
B2 silty clay of medium to high consistency 1.0-8.0 18-19 11-150 34-42
C bedrock 22-24

Marostica hills
layer description thickness [m] γ [kN/m3] CU[kPa] ø’ [°]
A Organic matter and surface soils 0.0-2.5
B1 clay loam of low to medium consistency 1.0-6.8 16-19 5-50 0-24
B2 silty clay of medium to high consistency 0.6-4.0 18-20 13-330 0-38
C bedrock 21-24

Atterberg limits
The tables below resume the average values of the Atterberg limits.
Fara Vicentino Cornedo Vicentino
profondità [m] WL [%] WP [%] IP [%] profondità [m] WL [%] WP [%] IP [%]
0.00-1.40 20 4 16 0.00-1.00 9 3 6
1.40-2.20 30 3 27 1.00-3.00 13 3 10
2.20-3.20 23 5 18 3.00-3.60 15 3 12
3.20-3.60 13 7 6 3.60-4.20 9 3 6
3.60-5.00 20 6 13 4.20-4.60 14 3 12
5.00-6.00 18 6 12 4.60-10.00 11 2 10
6.00-10.00 13 3 11
Using the Casagrande Plasticity Chart it is possible classify soils by correlating the liquid limit with
the plasticity index. Samples of Fara are inorganic clays of low plasticity, with the exception of samples
FARA08 ( 1.4-1.6 m ), FARA10 ( 1.8-2.0 m ) and FARA11 ( 2.0-2.2 m ) that are inorganic clays of
medium plasticity. All samples of Cornedo are inorganic clays of low plasticity and show less variability
of the Atterberg limits than those of Fara.

Scuola di Dottorato in Scienze della Terra,
Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova – A.A. 2012-2013

Sieve analysis
The results of the sieve analysis were reported on a semi-logarithmic graph and on a ternary plots, in
order to highlight the variation of the grain size with depth.
In Fara landslide, silt is the main particle size up to 8.4 m depth, remaining almost constant during the
first 6 m with values ranging from 60% to 74%, then oscillatory decrease reaching the minimum of 38%
between 9.0 and 9.2 m. Clay gradually increase with depth reaching a maximum of 23% between 3.4 and
3.6 m depth, then decrease gradually up to 8.0 meters depth, after that there is an almost constant
percentage equal to 3-4%. Sand approximately remains constant till 3.4-3.6 m depth with values around
15-20%, then gradually increases with depth reaching 38% at 10.0 meters depth. Gravel is little present
up to 8.0 m depth, except for the first 0.6 m with more than 5%. After 8.0 m depth it increases, reaching
average values of 20%, with a maximum of 45% between 8.6-8.8 m depth. This growth indicates the
approach to the bedrock, proved by a basalt boulder, with an average diameter of about 7 cm, placed
between 8.80-9.00 m depth.
As regard to Cornedo landslide, silt constitutes the main particle sizes till 6.0 m of depth. It is the 63-
75%, in the first 2.0 m depth, then decreases to 47% and remains almost constant till 6.0 m depth. Clay,
up to 1.6 m depth, is 8 %, than it decreases with depth and it is constant from 3.0 m onwards, with an
average value of 5%. Sand is the second predominant particle size class. It rises from an average value of
24% to 50% at 7.0 m depth. The content in sand is the mirror image of the content in silt. Gravel is only
above 0.6 m depth (colluvial deposits), then it is virtually absent, indicating that the bedrock is deeper.

X-ray diffraction
Fara Vicentino landslide and Cornedo Vicentino landslide are generally made of the same mineral
species, with the exception of andesine and goethite in Fara Vicentino and chamosite in Cornedo
The mineralogical components are divided into two groups: relict phases and lateritic phases. These
groups represent the result of the environment of formation.
1. the relict phases: Augite, Sanidine, Andesine, Magnetite, Muscovite, Quartz and Chamosite.
Augite, Sanidine, Andesine and Magnetite are not the product of chemical weathering, but
definitely of mechanical alteration: for this reason they are not dissolved in the ground and not in
lithological associations. They represent the minerals of the bedrock. Muscovite and Chamosite
are not associated with the “mother rock”, but with foreign bodies forming part of the
colluvial/anthropogenic material. Quartz present in Cornedo Vicentino is also associated with
colluvium, while in Fara Vicentino is probably related to hydrothermal activity: for this reason it
also occurs deep down.
2. Smectite (Montmorillonite): produced by low-temperature chemistry alteration of glass and silico-
aluminates (feldspar, pyroxene and olivine) of volcanic rocks.
3. the lateritic phases: Hematite, Ilmenite, Anatase, Goethite and Kaolinite. They are the latest
products of the weathering process (circulation of meteoric fluids at temperatures ≤ 40 ° C) of
volcanic rocks. The laterization generally occurs in tropical environment, but the unusually warm
climate of the Tertiary (especially during the Eocene and the Oligocene), allowed the formation of
lateritics alteration profiles till the latitudes of 50° (Mattias & Lombardi, 1987). In particular
laterization was initially a phenomenon of hydrolysis of silicates, which generated smectite. The
latter was replaced by kaolinite, silica and alkali. Finally, some elements were not dissolved by
water and precipitated forming iron and titanium oxides and hydrates.
Samples were, subsequently, smoothed and analyzed in the X-ray powder diffractometer, pre- and
post-treated with ethylene glycol. Diffractograms were compared to detect any displacements of the basal
reflections of clay minerals, according to their characteristics of expandability (Moore & Reynolds,
1997). The Smectite of Fara and Cornedo exhibit a variation of the d-basal spacing of about 15 Å to 17 Å.
Such expansive behavior confirms that this Smectite is a pure Montmorillonite.
Samples were also heated (Moore & Reynolds, 1997) in an electric oven, with two heating steps (335 °
C and 550 ° C), and then analyzed in diffraction. Overall, samples analyzed pre-and post-heat treatment
exhibit the typical layers collapse of Montmorillonite.
Scuola di Dottorato in Scienze della Terra,
Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova – A.A. 2012-2013

In general Fara and Cornedo landslides exhibit two different soil gradation: Fara has a coefficient of
uniformity very variable (range = 459) with very high value (467) after 8.0 m depth. Cornedo, on the
contrary, has a coefficient of uniformity less variable (range = 16) with maximum value equal to 25. In
general both deposits are well or very well graded.
Fara has the liquid limit and the plastic limit higher than the ones of Cornedo. The plasticity index of
Fara is higher than the one of Cornedo till 5.0 m depth, and then it becomes very similar between the two
landslides. The Casagrande plasticity chart classifies the deposits of Fara as cohesionless soils and
inorganic soils of low plasticity: the samples 08, 10 and 11, between 1.40 m and 2.20 m depth, are
inorganic soils fo medium plasticity. The deposits of Cornedo are cohesionless soils, except sample 17
that is inorganic clays of low plasticity.
The mineralogical profile of Fara Vicentino is more variable than the one of Cornedo Vicentino,
considering both Montmorillonite and Kaolinite. The variability of Fara profile could reflect the
lithologies succession of Basalts and Tuffs, that is, high value of Kaolinite could correspond to Tuffs,
while high value of Montmorillonite could correspond to Basalts. The Montmorillonite – Kaolinite ratio
of Fara presents a peak between 5.5 m and 6.0 m depth, while the ratio of Cornedo exhibit an almost
costant trend. This ratio could be interesting if we consider the difference between the swelling property
of Montmorillonite and Kaolinite: while Montmorillonite is swollen with water, Kaolinite not.
The variability of geotechnical index properties and mineralogical phases content confers different
properties to each layers, in particular, concerning plasticity index and swelling behavior. These
variations may change the stress state of the slopes, inducing sufficient deformations able to create
weakness surfaces. The complex stratigraphy of Fara landslide could reflect the complex movement of
the mass with a lot of possible weakness surfaces. The outliers between 5 and 6 m depth could be the
main slip surface above which the entire mass moved. Cornedo landslide has also an outlier at 4 m depth,
but above this it has more or less constant mineralogical content and geotechnical indexes. For this reason
the mass had a more homogeneous behavior, and considering the lower plasticity index than Fara, it

Next year we are going to investigate deeper rheology of deposits and their behavior with water. In
effect, water may strongly influence their frictional strength (Morrow, 2000).
The rheology will be analyzed in collaboration with the HP-HT Laboratory of experimental
Volcanology and Geophysics, of the INGV, Rome. We are going to test, also, the possibility to use the
High Velocity Rock Friction Apparatus, in order to understand better what happened to the friction
coefficient (Moore, 2004) when the failure produces movements along the slip surface.
The presence of water is strictly related to the swelling of Montmorillonite (Tomita, 1993; Fredlund,
1995; Meisina 2004). On the contrary, Kaolinite with water does not swell at all. Probably this different
attitude towards water could be one of the reasons that lead to collapses. For this reason we will
investigate differential swelling properties between Montmorillonite and Kaolinite and their
consequences on the stress state within the slope.

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Scuola di Dottorato in Scienze della Terra,
Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova – A.A. 2012-2013

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E. CALANDRUCCIO: “Seminari di Inglese parlato”, Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova.
L. GULICK: “Seminari di inglese scientifico”, Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova.
L. SALMASO: “Statistics for Engineers”, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale, Università degli Studi di Padova.
R. J. ANGEL: “Scientific comunication”, Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova.
STEPS 2013 – Programma formativo interdisciplinare per dottorandi di ricerca dell’Università di Padova
• GUBITTA P.: “Come funzionano le organizzazioni”
• SCABBIA M.: “Strategia e organizzazione dei processi di innovazione”
• DI LENNA A.: “Lavorare in team”
• DE GASPERI M.: “Coordinare un’attività complessa: il project management”
• FABRIS E.: “Il controllo economico e finanziario di un progetto”
• SCABBIA M.: “Metodi per gestire i processi di innovazione”
• TARGA B.: “Strumenti per affrontare il mondo del lavoro”
• DE MOZZI B.: “Scelte professionali e forme contrattuali”
• PAVAN E.: “La carriera tecnico-scientifica e la proprietà intellettuale”
• NEGRELLI S.: “Auto-imprenditorialità: spin-off e start-up”

BUSNARDO,E AND SAPORITO, F. 2013. A study on the influence of clay minerals in shallow landslides involving
weathered volcanic rocks. Rend. Online Soc. Geol. It., Vol. 24 (2013), pp. 43-45, 4 figs.
MAZZANTI, P., SAPORITO, F, 2014. The Ligosullo (UD, Italy) landslide, revisiting of past data and prospects from
monitoring activities. IAEG XII Congress
BUSNARDO, E., ARTIOLI, G., SECCO, M., FLORIS, M. Preliminary geotechnical and mineralogical characterization of
shallow landslides. It is being worked on.
BUSNARDO, E., FLORIS, M. Size distribution of shallow landslides. It is being worked on.

Teaching activities:

Teaching assistant: 25 hours, “Elementi di Geologia Applicata e Geofisica Applicata”, Laurea Magistrale in Geologia e
Geologia Tecnica (2012/2013).

Assistant supervisor: Loris Dalla Costa “Caratterizzazione geotecnica e mineralogica dei terreni coinvolti in frane superficiali
della provincia di Vicenza”, Laurea Magistrale in Geologia e Geologia Tecnica (2013)


International Conference – VAJONT 1963 – 2013: Executive Committee Member.