Plant and Soil

, Volume 394, Issue 1–2, pp 127–137 | Cite as

Combining terrestrial laser scanning and root exposure to estimate erosion rates

  • J. A. Ballesteros-Cánovas
  • C. Corona
  • M. Stoffel
  • A. Lucia-Vela
  • J. M. Bodoque
Regular Article



This paper aims to analyze the reliability of exposed roots oriented perpendicular to the slope to quantify sheet erosion rates based on accurate reconstruction of topography using terrestrial laser scanner (TLS).


The study was performed in an experimental sandy badland located in Central Spain. Sampling procedures were conducted in three different homogenous hydrological response units (HRU). We derived eroded soil thickness from by obtaining accurate microtopographic data using TLS. In addition, dendrogeomorphic procedures, based on anatomical changes in root rings, were used to determine the first year of exposure of 46 Pinus pinaster roots.


Results indicate that medium-term (±30 year) erosion rates obtained from roots growing perpendicular to the slope were significantly different from those obtained from exposed roots growing parallel to the slope (p-value <0.05). However, at short term (up to 5 years), result agree with those obtained from erosion pin monitoring at the study site, which confirms the potential of reconstructions based on perpendicular roots.


The utility of exposed perpendicular roots coupled with accurate eroded soil estimation has been proved. It allows the extension of the applicability of dendrogeomorphic approaches, particularly for ungauged badlands where instrumental data is scarce or completely missing.


Sheet erosion Exposed roots Terrestrial laser scanner Badlands Dendrogeomorphology Tree ring Erosion rate 



This study has been funded by the Spanish Research Projects CGL2010-21754-C02-01 of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology. The authors wish to thank Jose Francisco Martin Duque, Cristina Martín-Moreno and Luis Alberto de Frutos for their kind collaboration during fieldwork. This study is affectionately dedicated to Andy Godfrey who was the first to use dendrogeomorphology to analyze erosion in exposed tree roots of Central Spain.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Ballesteros-Cánovas
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Corona
    • 3
  • M. Stoffel
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • A. Lucia-Vela
    • 5
  • J. M. Bodoque
    • 6
  1., Institute of Geological SciencesUniversity of BerneBerneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Climatic Change and Climate Impacts, Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaCarougeSwitzerland
  3. 3.CNRS Geolab Clermont-FerrandClermont-FerrandFrance
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  5. 5.Free University of BolzanoBolzanoItaly
  6. 6.University of Castilla-La ManchaToledoSpain

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