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Quantifying root reinforcement of river bank soils by four Australian tree species


, : Quantifying root reinforcement of river bank soils by four Australian tree species. Geomorphology 100.3-4

The increased shear resistance of soil due to root-reinforcement by four common Australian riparian trees, Casuarina glauca, Eucalyptus amplifolia, Eucalyptus elata and Acacia floribunda, was determined in-situ with a field shear-box. Root pull-out strengths and root tensile-strengths were also measured and used to evaluate the utility of the root-reinforcement estimation models that assume simultaneous failure of all roots at the shear plane. Field shear-box results indicate that tree roots fail progressively rather than simultaneously. Shear-strengths calculated for root-reinforced soil assuming simultaneous root failure, yielded values between 50% and 215% higher than directly measured shear-strengths. The magnitude of the overestimate varies among species and probably results from differences in both the geometry of the root-system and tensile strengths of the root material. Soil blocks under A. floribunda which presents many, well-spread, highly-branched fine roots with relatively higher tensile strength, conformed most closely with root model estimates; whereas E. amplifolia, which presents a few, large, unbranched vertical roots, concentrated directly beneath the tree stem and of relatively low tensile strength, deviated furthest from model-estimated shear-strengths. These results suggest that considerable caution be exercised when applying estimates of increased shear-strength due to root-reinforcement in riverbank stability modelling. Nevertheless, increased soil shear strength provided by tree roots can be calculated by knowledge of the Root Area Ratio (RAR) at the shear plane. At equivalent RAR values, A. floribunda demonstrated the greatest earth reinforcement potential of the four species studied.

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