Mass Wasting: Types and Examples

In Mass Wasting, the gravitational force of the earth acts directly on the loose material and the unstable slopes result the slide of the rocks and rock debris. This is known as Mass movement. This movement may be slow or fast depending upon the slope angle.  The steepest angle that cohesion less slope can maintain without losing its stability is known as its Critical angle of repose.

Thus, mass wasting is spontaneous movement of soil, regolith, and rock under the influence of gravity. There are many forms of mass wasting, depending on the speed of the motion and the amount of water involved.

Mass wasting is of following types:


It is a long term process which refers to the small movements of soil or rock in different directions over time, directed by gravity. The speed is so slow that naked eye is not able to show the movement.


It includes the rock slides, slumps (short distance moving of rocks) & sturzstroms (more horizontal movement when compared to its initial vertical drop). Landslides are most common type of mass wasting.


Flows refer to the movement of the soil, dust, rock particles and bigger pabbles resembling the fluid behavior. Examples of the flows are avalanches, mudflows, debris flows, earth flow, lahars and sturzstroms. The water and air may contribute to the fluid like behaviour.


When rocks break away and fall from a slope , it is called Topples.


Slump refers to slipping of the rock material.


Rocks fell from the steep slopes such as a cliff face, and the movement may be contributed by the earthquakes, rain, plant-root wedging, expanding ice, among other things.

Induced Mass wasting

Human activities can induce mass wasting processes by creating unstable piles of waste soil and rock and by removing the underlying support of natural masses of soil, regolith, and bedrock. Mass movements produced by human activities are called induced mass wasting.


Erosions refer to the earth-sculpting processes in which the debris produced by weathering is “transported”. So it’s a kind of weathering in which the soils break up and get carried away. The agents of erosion are Rainwater, River water, ice, wind, sea waves, and underground water.

Erosion is a very important topic physical and well as human geography. Apart from the transport by wind, water, or ice; erosion also involves the down-slope creep of soil and erosion by the living organisms, such as burrowing animals, in the case of bioerosion, and human land use.