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Biotechnical Characteristics of Root Systems of Typical Mediterranean Species

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Vegetation can significantly contribute to stabilise sloping terrain by adding cohesion to soil: this reinforcement depends on the morphological characteristics of the root systems and the tensile strength of single roots. The paper presents the results of research carried out in order to evaluate the biotechnical characteristics of the root system of three typical Mediterranean plant species which can affect slope stability. The species considered in the present study are Lygeum spartum L. (a perennial herbaceous monocotyledonous), Atriplex halimus L. and Pistacia lentiscus L. (two dicotyledonous shrub species). The plant specimens were collected in the Basilicata region (Southern Italy) by in situ excavation to obtain the whole root systems. Single root specimens for each species were sampled and tested for tensile strength measurement, and the complete root systems were analysed to evaluate the root density distribution with depth in terms of Root Area Ratio. The resulting data have been used to calculate the reinforcing effect in terms of increased shear strength of the soil using the model of Wu (1976, Investigation of landslides on Prince of Wales Island. Geotech. Eng. Rep. 5 Civil Eng. Dep. Ohio State Univ. Columbus, Ohio, USA) and Waldron (1977, Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 41(3), 843–849), a simple and widespread model based on the reinforced earth theory. The results show that root reinforcement exerted by L. spartum is stronger than the reinforcement exerted by P. lentiscus and A. halimus in the upper layers of the soil, while P. lentiscus presents higher reinforcement values in deeper horizons. A. halimus presents lower values than either of the other species studied.

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Correspondence to Gian Battista Bischetti.

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Mattia, C., Bischetti, G.B. & Gentile, F. Biotechnical Characteristics of Root Systems of Typical Mediterranean Species. Plant Soil 278, 23–32 (2005).

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