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Using Three-dimensional Plant Root Architecture in Models of Shallow-slope Stability

FRÉDÉRIC DANJON, DAVID H. BARKER, MICHAEL DREXHAGE and ALEXIA STOKES
Annals of Botany
Vol. 101, No. 8, SPECIAL ISSUE: Plant Growth Modelling (May 2008), pp. 1281-1293
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43575894
Page Count: 13
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Using Three-dimensional Plant Root Architecture in Models of Shallow-slope Stability
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Abstract

• Background The contribution of vegetation to shallow-slope stability is of major importance in landslide-prone regions. However, existing slope stability models use only limited plant root architectural parameters. This study aims to provide a chain of tools useful for determining the contribution of tree roots to soil reinforcement. • Methods Three-dimensional digitizing in situ was used to obtain accurate root system architecture data for mature Quercus alba in two forest stands. These data were used as input to tools developed, which analyse the spatial position of roots, topology and geometry. The contribution of roots to soil reinforcement was determined by calculating additional soil cohesion using the limit equilibrium model, and the factor of safety (FOS) using an existing slope stability model, Slip4Ex. • Key Results Existing models may incorrectly estimate the additional soil cohesion provided by roots, as the spatial position of roots crossing the potential slip surface is usually not taken into account. However, most soil reinforcement by roots occurs close to the tree stem and is negligible at a distance > 1·0 m from the tree, and therefore global values of FOS for a slope do not take into account local slippage along the slope. • Conclusions Within a forest stand on a landslide-prone slope, soil fixation by roots can be minimal between uniform rows of trees, leading to local soil slippage. Therefore, staggered rows of trees would improve overall slope stability, as trees would arrest the downward movement of soil. The chain of tools consisting of both software (free for non-commercial use) and functions available from the first author will enable a more accurate description and use of root architectural parameters in standard slope stability analyses.

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