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Root systems control erosion: vascular plants


Hedera helix root system / Beentree / LicenseCC-by-sa - Attribution Share Alike

Root systems of plants control erosion through architectural characteristics.

"A distinction is usually made between mechanical and hydrological effects of roots without much focus on the influence of architectural characteristics on these effects. Some commonly used architectural characteristics are the spatial distribution of root area ratio for slope stability analysis and root density or root length density for analysis of water erosion control. But many other architectural features, such as the branching pattern, root orientation and fractal characteristics, seem empirically and intuitively related to the effect of root systems on erosion phenomena. Many links between root system architectural characteristics and their soil fixing effects probably do exist and more links could be identified. However, most of these links remain very weak and empirical. The research which is needed to make these relationships explicit is still poorly developed and mainly focused on resistance against uprooting by wind loading. Moreover, although the mechanical and hydrological mechanisms of soil-root interaction are rather well described for simple processes such as sheet, rill or interrill erosion, this knowledge is almost nonexistent for complex processes such as gully erosion. This hampers understanding the importance of root system architecture for these processes." (Reubens et al. 2007:398-399)
About the inspiring organism

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Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Embankment stabilization, building foundations, mine foundations, waste lagoons, sinkhole stabilization, shoreline stabilization, preventing erosion during and after construction.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Stabilization

Forest Ecology and Management Research Group
Bart Muys Bert Reubens
Division Forest, Nature and Landscape, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Physical and Regional Geography Research Group
Jean Poesen
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Reubens, B.; Poesen, J.; Danjon, F.; Geudens, G.; Muys, B. 2007. The role of fine and coarse roots in shallow slope stability and soil erosion control with a focus on root system architecture: a review. Trees-Structure and Function. 21(4): 385-402.
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over 5 years ago
Thanks to Miguel Duarte Prazeres for finding and uploading this photo.
over 6 years ago
Yes, root system architecture is particularly important in soil stability, influencing not only erosion in the sense of particle transport, but in promoting or preventing mass surficial failures (“minor” landslides), and in drainage, both surface and subsurface. This only, of course, scratches the surface of the subject.
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