Cosmogenic exposure dating constraints for coastal landslide evolution on the Island of Malta (Mediterranean Sea)
Landslides affecting the north-western coast of the Island of Malta have been investigated and monitored for 10 years. As a result of a bathymetric survey, it was discovered the deposits continued out onto the seafloor, thus raising questions as to the timing of their development. Furthermore it was uncertain as to which environment they developed in and which factors controlled their movements. The aim of this paper is to investigate representative detachments to chronologically constrain these mass movement events and outline their spatial and temporal evolution. Samples for exposure dating using the cosmogenic nuclide 36Cl were collected from head scarps and blocks located within two long-term monitored landslides characterised by extensive block slides. The results indicate the oldest dated block detachment occurring in a subaerial environment at ca. 21 ka, when the sea level was about 130 m lower than at present. Mass movement possibly accelerated when sea level reached the landslide toe during the post-glacial marine transgression. Considering the timing of block movement, the landslide deposits observed today appear to be related to a first-time failure involving a large part of the slope, though and alternative hypothesis is also taken here into account. This main event is likely to have been followed by secondary movements influenced by toe undercutting and clay saturation due to rising sea level. However, further research on mass movement kinematics is required in order to model their evolution and explore whether this interpretation is widely applicable along the Maltese coast.