The influence of cellulose content on tensile strength in tree roots

  • Marie Genet
  • Alexia Stokes
  • Franck Salin
  • Slobodan B. Mickovski
  • Thierry Fourcaud
  • Jean-François Dumail
  • Rens van Beek
Part of the Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences book series (DPSS, volume 103)


In order to determine the mechanical resistance of several forest tree species to rockfall, an inventory of the type of damage sustained in an active rockfall corridor was carried out in the French Alps. The diameter, spatial position and type of damage incurred were measured in 423 trees. Only 5% of trees had sustained damage above a height of 1.3 m and in damaged trees, 66% of broken or uprooted trees were conifers. Larger trees were more likely to be wounded or dead than smaller trees, although the size of the wounds was relatively smaller in larger trees. The species with the least proportion of damage through stem breakage, uprooting or wounding was European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.). Winching tests were carried out on two conifer species, Norway spruce (Picea abies L.) and Silver fir (Abies alba Mill.), as well as European beech, in order to verify the hypothesis that beech was highly resistant to rockfall and that conifers were more susceptible to uprooting or stem breakage. Nineteen trees were winched downhill and the force necessary to cause failure was measured. The energy (E fail) required to break or uproot a tree was then calculated. Most Silver fir trees failed in the stem and Norway spruce usually failed through uprooting. European beech was either uprooted or broke in the stem and was twice as resistant to failure as Silver fir, and three times more resistant than Norway spruce. E fail was strongly related to stem diameter in European beech only, and was significantly higher in this species compared to Norway spruce. Results suggest that European beech would be a better species to plant with regards to protection against rockfall. Nevertheless, all types of different abiotic stresses on any particular alpine site should be considered by the forest manager, as planting only broadleaf species may compromise the protecting capacity of the forest, e.g., in the case of snow avalanches.


Tensile Strength Slope Stability Tree Root Root Diameter Cellulose Content 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Akerholm M, Hinterstoisser B and Salmen L 2004 Characterization of the crystalline structure of cellulose using static and dynamic FT-IR spectroscopy. Carbohydr. Res. 339, 569–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson M G and Richards K S 1987 Slope Stability: Geotechnical Engineering and Geomorphology. Wiley, Chichester, 585 pp.Google Scholar
  3. Andersson S, Serimaa R, Paakkari T, Saranpaa P and Pesonen E 2003 Crystallinity of wood and the size of cellulose crystallites in Norway spruce (Picea abies). WJ. Wood Sci. 49, 531–537.Google Scholar
  4. Archer R 1986 Growth Stresses and Strains in Trees. Springer Verlag, Berlin, 240 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Bazant Z P and Kazemi M T 1990 Size effect in fracture of ceramics, its use to determine fracture energy and effective process zone length. J. Am. Ceram. Soc. 73, 1841–1853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bischetti G B, Chiaradia E A, Simonato T, Speziali B, Vitali B, Vullo P and Zocco A 2005 Root strength and root area of forest species in Lombardy (Northern Italy). Plant Soil 278, 11–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burroughs E R and Thomas B R 1977 Declining root strength in Douglas fir after felling as a factor in slope stability. USDA For. Serv. Res. Paper INT-19027pp.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell K A and Hawkins C D B 2003 Paper birch and lodgepole pine root reinforcement in coarse-, medium-, and fine-, textured soils. Can. J. For. Res. 33, 1580–1586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chiatante D, Scippa S G, Di Iorio A and Sarnataro M 2003 The influence of steep slopes on root system development. J. Plant Growth Regul. 21, 247–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Commandeur P R and Pyles M R 1991 Modulus of elasticity and tensile strength of Douglas fir roots. Can. J. For. Res. 21, 48–52.Google Scholar
  11. Coppin N J and Richards I G 1990 Use of Vegetation in Civil Engineering. Butterworth, London 272 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Coutts M P 1983 Root architecture and tree stability. Plant Soil 71, 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cucchi V, Meredieu C, Stokes A, Berthier S, Bert D and Najar M 2004 Root anchorage of inner and edge trees of Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait) growing in different soil podzolic conditions. Trees-Struct. Funct. 18, 460–466.Google Scholar
  14. Delmer D P and Amor Y 1995 Cellulose Biosynthesis. Plant Cell 7, 987–1000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dupuy L, Fourcaud T and Stokes A 2005a A numerical investigation into factors affecting the anchorage of roots in tension. Eur. J. Soil Sci. 56, 319–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dupuy L, Fourcaud T, Stokes A 2005b A numerical investigation into the influence of soil type and root architecture on tree anchorage. Plant Soil 278, 119–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ennos A R 2000 The mechanics of root anchorage. Adv. Bot. Res. 33, 133–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ennos A R and Fitter A H 1992 Comparative functional morphology of the anchorage systems of annual dicots. Funct. Ecol. 6, 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fitter A H and Stickland T R 1991 Architectural analysis of plant root systems 2. Influence of nutrient supply on architecture in contrasting plant species. New Phytol. 118, 383–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gersani M and Sachs T 1992 Development correlations between roots in heterogeneous environments. Plant Cell. Environ. 15, 463–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goodman A M and Ennos A R 1999 The effects of soil bulk density on the morphology and anchorage mechanics of the root systems of sunflower and maize. Ann. Bot. (London) 83, 293–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gray D H and Sotir R D 1996 Biotechnical and Soil Bioengineering Slope Stabilization. Wiley, New York, 369 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Greenway D R 1987 Vegetation and slope stability. In Slope Stability. Ed. M G Anderson. pp. 187–230. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  24. Greenwood J R, Vickers A W, Morgan R P C, Coppin N J, Norris J E, 2001 Bio-engineering: The Longham Wood Cutting field trial. CIRIA Project Report 81, London. 122 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Gruber F 1994 Morphology of coniferous trees: possible effects of soil acidification on morphology of Norway spruce and Silver fir. In DL Godbold and A Huttermann (eds), Effects of Acid Rain on Forest Processes. pp. 265–324. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Hamza O, Bengough A G, Bransby M F, Davies M C R and Hallett P D 2007 Mechanics of root-pullout from soil: a novel image and stress analysis procedure. In A Stokes, I Spanos, JE Norris and LH Cammeraat (eds), Eco- and Ground Bio-Engineering: The Use of Vegetation to Improve Slope Stability. Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences, vol 103, pp. 213–221. Springer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  27. Hathaway R L and Penny D 1975 Root strength in some Populus and Salix clones. New Zeal J. Bot. 13, 333–343.Google Scholar
  28. Kerstens S, Decraemer W F and Verbelen J P 2001 Cell walls at the plant surface behave mechanically like fiber reinforced composite materials. Plant Physiol. 127, 381–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Köstler J N, Bruckner E and Bibelriether H 1968 Die Wurzeln der Walbäume. Untersuchungen zur Morphologie der Walbäume in Mitteleuropa, 284 pp. Verlag, Hamburg and Berlin.Google Scholar
  30. Lambrot C and Porté A 2000 Amélioration du protocole d’extraction de la cellulose et de l’holocellulose du bois: verification de l’absence d’un effet contaminant sur les valeurs de composition isotopique du carbone dans les cernes du bois. Cah. Techn. I.N.R.A. 45, 19–26.Google Scholar
  31. Leavitt S W and Danzer S R 1993 Method for batch processing small wood samples to holocellulose for stable-carbon isotope analysis. Anal. Chem. 65, 87–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lindström A and Rune G 1999 Root deformation in plantations of container-grown Scots pine trees: effects on root growth, tree stability and stem straightness. Plant Soil 217, 29–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Niklas K J 1992 Plant Biomechanics: An Engineering Approach to Plant Form and Function, 607 pp. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  34. Nilaweera N S and Nutalaya P 1999 Role of tree roots in slope stabilisation. Bull. Eng. Geol. Env. 57, 337–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Norris J E 2005 Root reinforcement by hawthorn and oak roots on a highway cut-slope in Southern England. Plant Soil 278, 43–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Loughlin C L and Watson A J 1979 Root-wood strength deterioration in radiata pine after clearfelling. N. Z. J. For. Sci. 9, 284–293.Google Scholar
  37. Operstein V and Frydman S 2000 The influence of vegetation on soil strength. Ground Improvement 4, 81–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Phillips C J and Watson A J 1994 Structural tree root research in New Zealand: A review. Landcare Res. Sci. Ser. 7, 39–47.Google Scholar
  39. Roering J J, Schmidt K M, Stock J D, Dietrich W E and Montgomery D R 2003 Shallow land sliding, root reinforcement, and the spatial distribution of trees in the Oregon Coast Range. Can. Geotech. J. 40, 237–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schiechtl H M 1980 Bioengineering for Land Reclamation and Conservation, 404 pp. Edmonton Alberta, University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, Alberta.Google Scholar
  41. Schmidt K M, Roering J J, Stock J D, Dietrich W E, Montgomery D R and Schaub T 2001 Root cohesion variability and shallow landslide susceptibility in the Oregon Coast Range. Can. Geotech. J. 38, 995–1024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shrestha M B, Horiuchi M, Yamadera Y and Miyazaki T 2000 A study on the adaptability mechanism of tree roots on steep slopes. In A Stokes (ed), The Supporting Roots of Trees and Woody Plants: Form, Function and Physiology. Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences, pp. 51–57. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  43. Sjostrom E 1993 Wood Chemistry Fundamentals and Applications, 293 pp. 2nd edition Academic Press Inc, San Diego.Google Scholar
  44. Stokes A, Drexage M and Guitard D 2000 A method for predicting the possible site of failure in trees during mechanical loading. In A Stokes (ed), The Supporting Roots of Trees and Woody Plants: Form, Function and Physiology. Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences, pp. 279–285. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  45. Stokes A 2002 Biomechanics of tree root anchorage. In Y Waisel, A Eshel and U Kafkai (eds), Plant Roots: The Hidden Half Part, pp. 175–186. Marcel Dekker, NY.Google Scholar
  46. Stokes A, Salin F, Kokutse A D, Berthier S, Jeannin H, Mochan S, Kokutse N, Dorren L, Abd.Ghani M and Fourcaud T 2005 Mechanical resistance of different tree species to rockfall in the French Alps. Plant Soil 278, 107–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Turmanina V 1965 On the strength of tree roots. Bull. Moscow Soc. Naturalists, Biol. Sec. 70, 36–45.Google Scholar
  48. Wu T H 1976 Investigation of landslides on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Ohio State Univ., Dept. of Civil Eng., Geotech. Eng. Rpt. N5, 93 pp.Google Scholar
  49. Wu T H 2007 Root reinforcement analyses and experiments. In A Stokes, I Spanos, JE Norris, LH Cammeraat (eds), Eco-and Ground Bio-Engineering: The Use of Vegetation to Improve Slope Stability. Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences. Springer, Dordrecht. Vol. 103, pp. 21–30.Google Scholar
  50. Ziemer R R, 1981 Roots and the stability of forested slopes IAHS Publication 132, 343–357.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie Genet
    • 1
    • 8
  • Alexia Stokes
    • 1
  • Franck Salin
    • 2
  • Slobodan B. Mickovski
    • 1
    • 3
  • Thierry Fourcaud
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jean-François Dumail
    • 5
  • Rens van Beek
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Rhéologie du Bois de Bordeaux(Mixed Unit: INRA/CNRS/Université Bordeaux I) Domaine de l’HermitageCestas CedexFrance
  2. 2.INRA, Equipe de Génétique et Amélioration des Arbres ForestiersUMR BIOGECOCestas CedexFrance
  3. 3.Civil Engineering Division, School of Engineering and Physical SciencesUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK
  4. 4.AMAP-CIRAD AMISCedex 5France
  5. 5.XYLOMECAMoulin NeufFrance
  6. 6.Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics – Physical GeographyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Department of Physical GeographyUtrecht University HeidelberglaanUtrechtThe Netherlands
  8. 8.INRALIAMA-CASIAHadianChina

Personalised recommendations