Plausible failure mechanisms of wildlife-damaged earth levees: insights from centrifuge modeling and numerical analysis

Gholamreza Saghaee, Ahmad Mousa, Mohamed A. Meguid

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Earth levees are subject to a wide range of wildlife intrusion patterns that cause mass removal and subsequent serious deformations. Such invasive activities leave the body of an earth embankment with burrow systems too complex to map and model using conventional techniques. This study investigates the impact of different idealized configurations of animal burrows on the geotechnical performance of levees. For this purpose, centrifuge testing was conducted on homogenous scaled-down 1 horizontal : 1 vertical (1H:1V) levee models built from silty sand material. Modeling involved introducing horizontal cylindershaped waterside and landside burrows at different elevations within the levee section. The reference (intact) and deteriorated levee models were subject to a centrifugal acceleration of 35g, which was kept constant as the water level behind the levee model was gradually increased. The deformation profile of the model was tracked, and the crest displacements were concurrently measured. Miniature pore pressure transducers (PPTs) embedded within the levee body provided pore pressure measurements. A three-dimensional finite element model was developed to investigate the hydraulic performance and verify the failure patterns of the deteriorated levees. Compared with an intact levee, the presence of animal intrusions was found to increase the exit hydraulic gradient for both waterside and landside intrusions. Lower animal burrows appeared to cause larger exit gradients than higher ones. Similarly, waterside burrows exhibited a notably higher pore pressure and larger hydraulic gradient. Waterside damage resulted in a quicker and more violent failure than landside burrows. The failure mechanisms for both the waterside and landside burrows are dissimilar despite their similarly abrupt nature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)496-1508
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
Issue number10
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Centrifuge modeling
  • Geotechnical performance of levees
  • Seepage analysis
  • Stability of earth structures
  • Wildlife intrusion patterns


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