How roots of Picea abies and Fraxinus excelsior plantations contribute to soil strength and slope stability: Evidence from a study case in the Hyrcanian Forest, Iran

Marzieh Esmaiili, Ehsan Abdi, John L. Nieber, Mohammad Jafary, Baris Majnounian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although the effects of different vegetation cover on soil reinforcement due to their roots have been addressed in the literature, there remains a lack of assessment and comparison of root biomechanical properties of hardwood and softwood plantations for similar site conditions. To address this gap, two adjacent hillslopes with similar site conditions but different forest plantations, a Picea abies (softwood) and a Fraxinus excelsior (hardwood), were selected to assess and compare their effectiveness in protecting sloping soils. The profile trench method was used to obtain root distribution from both upslope and downslope sides of tree samples and on each side at two horizontal distances from the tree stems. Root tensile strength of live root samples was measured using a standard Instron Universal Testing Machine. A modified Wu andWaldron root reinforcement model was used to calculate root cohesion for the two plantations. The root tensile strength for was significantly greater for softwood than for hardwood trees (19.31 ± 2.64 vs 16.98 ± 1.01 MPa). Interestingly, the number of roots, root area ratio values, and the root tensile strength of the two species did not significantly differ between the upslope and downslope sides of trees. The results also showed a higher root cohesion for the softwood than the hardwood species (1.56 ± 0.34 vs 1.03 ± 0.21 kPa). In addition, softwood trees extended their contribution to soil protection to a larger horizontal distance compared with hardwood. However, our findings generally revealed that the values of root cohesion of both studied plantations were surprisingly lower than those found in earlier reports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-298
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Research
Volume59
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Tehran. We would like to thank Mr. Elyas Hayati for his valuable contribution to this research. Also, we thank Mr. Rashedi for his contribution in performing root tensile tests. JL Nieber’s effort on this project was partially supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch/Multistate Project MN 12–109. The authors are very thankful to Mr. Rahmat Ghommi and Mr. Ghodrat Daneshvar for their help during data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© CSIRO 2021.

Keywords

  • Plant roots
  • Slope stability
  • Soil bio-engineering
  • Soil cohesion
  • Soil protection

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