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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
Volume (Issue) 51(3)
Page(s) 811 - 825
Title of proceedings Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
DOI 10.1007/s00603-017-1348-2


In order to model rockfall on forested slopes, we developed a trajectory rockfall model based on the discrete element method (DEM). This model is able to take the complex mechanical processes at work during an impact into account (large deformations, complex contact conditions) and can explicitly simulate block/soil, block/tree contacts as well as contacts between neighbouring trees. In this paper, we describe the DEM model developed and we use it to assess the protective effect of different types of forest. In addition, we compared it with a more classical rockfall simulation model. The results highlight that forests can significantly reduce rockfall hazard and that the spatial structure of coppice forests has to be taken into account in rockfall simulations in order to avoid overestimating the protective role of these forest structures against rockfall hazard. In addition, the protective role of the forests is mainly influenced by the basal area. Finally, the advantages and limitations of the DEM model were compared with classical rockfall modelling approaches.