Influence of plant root system morphology and architectural traits on soil shear resistance

Abstract : Background and aims : Vegetation can be used to stabilise slopes with regard to shallow landslides, but the optimal plant architecture for conferring resistance is not known. This study aims at identifying root morphological traits which confer the most resistance to soil during shearing. Methods : Three species used for slope stabilisation (Ricinus communis L., Jatropha curcas L. and Rhus chinensis Mill.) were grown for 10 months in large shear boxes filled with silty clay similar to that found in Yunnan, China. Direct shear tests were then performed and compared to fallow soil. Root systems were excavated and a large number of traits measured. Results : Shear strength and deformation energy were enhanced by the presence of roots. Regardless of confining pressure, R. communis conferred most resistance due to its taprooted system with many vertical roots. J. curcas possessed oblique and vertical roots which created fragile zones throughout the soil profile. The least efficient root system was R. chinensis which possessed many horizontal lateral roots. Soil mechanical properties were most influenced by (i) density of roots crossing the shear plane, (ii) branching density throughout the soil profile, (iii) total length of coarse roots above the shear plane and (iv) total volume of coarse roots and fine root density below the shear plane. During failure, fine, short and branched roots slipped through soil rather than breaking. Conclusion : Root morphological traits such as density, branching, length, volume, inclination and orientation influence significantly soil mechanical properties
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Murielle Ghestem, Guillaume Veylon, Alain Bernard, Quentin Vanel, Alexia Stokes. Influence of plant root system morphology and architectural traits on soil shear resistance. Plant and Soil, Springer Verlag, 2014, 377 (1-2), pp.43-61. ⟨10.1007/s11104-012-1572-1⟩. ⟨hal-01268556⟩



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