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Modelling biome-scale root reinforcement and slope stability

Hales, Tristram ORCID: 2018. Modelling biome-scale root reinforcement and slope stability. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 43 (10) , pp. 2157-2166. 10.1002/esp.4381

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Rapid changes in the composition of hillslope vegetation due to a combination of changing climate and land use make estimating slope stability a significant challenge. The dynamics of root growth on any individual hillslope result in a wide range of root distributions and strengths that are reflected as up to an order of magnitude variability in root cohesion. Hence the challenge of predicting the magnitude of root reinforcement for hillslopes requires both an understanding of the magnitude and variability of root distributions and material properties (e.g. tensile strength, elasticity). Here I develop a model for estimating the reinforcement provided by plant roots based on the distribution of biomass measured at the biome level and a compilation of root tensile strength measurements measured across a range of vegetation types. The model modifies the Wu/Waldron method of calculating root cohesion to calculate the average lateral root cohesion and its variability with depth using the Monte Carlo method. The model was validated in two ways, the first against the predicted depth‐reinforcement characteristics of Appalachian soils and the second using a global dataset of landslides. Model results suggest that the order of magnitude difference in root cohesions measured on individual hillslopes can be captured by the Monte Carlo approach and provide a simple tool to estimate of root reinforcement for data‐poor areas. The model also suggests that future hotspots of slope instability will occur in areas where land use and climate convert forest to grassland, rather than changes between different forest structures or forest and shrubland.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0197-9337
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 April 2018
Date of Acceptance: 25 March 2018
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 02:52

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