Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 785–801 | Cite as

The influence of plant root system architectural properties upon the stability of loess hillslopes, Northeast Qinghai, China

  • Jiang-tao Fu
  • Xia-song HuEmail author
  • Gary BrierleyEmail author
  • Na Qiao
  • Qin-qin Yu
  • Hai-jing Lu
  • Guo-rong Li
  • Hai-li Zhu


To investigate the influence of root system architectural properties of three indigenous (cold-adapted) shrubs on the hillslope stability of loess deposits in the Xining Basin, northeast part of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP), indoor direct shear tests have been conducted on the remolded rooted soil of three shrubs. Test results show that root system architectural indices (root area ratio (RAR), root length density (RLD) and root density (RD)) of the shrubs decline with depth and the relationship between RAR, RD and depth is exponential, while a power relationship describes the relationship between RLD and depth. The cohesion force of remolded rooted soil for the shrubs initially increases with depth, but it then demonstrates a slightly decreasing trend, which can be described with a power relationship. Power relationships also describe relationships between cohesion force and RAR, RLD and RD for the shrubs. As the growth period increases from 10 to 17 months, the incremental increase in RAR is 48.32% ~ 210.25% for Caragana korshinskii Kom and 0.56% ~ 166.85% for Zygophyllum xanthoxylon (Bunge) Maxim. This proportional increase is notably larger than that for RLD and RD. The increment in RAR is marginally greater for C. korshinskii than it is for Z. xanthoxylon. Correspondingly, the cohesion force incremental rates of remolded rooted soil for C. korshinskii and Z. xanthoxylon are 12.41% ~ 25.22% and 3.45% ~ 17.33% respectively. Meanwhile, as root content increases, the contribution by roots to cohesion force increases markedly until a threshold condition is reached.


Cold region Semiarid region Soil reinforcement Hillslope stability Root system architectural indices Plateau 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiang-tao Fu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xia-song Hu
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Gary Brierley
    • 4
    Email author
  • Na Qiao
    • 3
  • Qin-qin Yu
    • 3
  • Hai-jing Lu
    • 3
  • Guo-rong Li
    • 3
  • Hai-li Zhu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Qinghai Institute of Salt LakesChinese Academy of SciencesXining, QinghaiChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Geological EngineeringQinghai UniversityXining, QinghaiChina
  4. 4.School of EnvironmentUniversity of AucklandAuckland CityNew Zealand

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