UBC Undergraduate Research

Averting Disaster : The Effects of Root Branching on Landslide Debris Jackman, Andrea; Goel, Ria


After observing the negative effects of landslides in British Columbia, we wanted to explore effective mitigation techniques using plant roots. In this study, we investigated the effects of root branching on the amount of fallen soil in a landslide using a physical model. The goal was to determine the optimal level of branching for artificial and natural landslide mitigation. We predicted an inverse linear relationship between the amount of fallen soil and degree of model root branching as root branching increased. We measured the mass of fallen soil in slopes with four artificial root structures inserted into them. The treatment groups were roots with zero to four bends, higher numbers representing greater root branching. We found statistically significant differences between all treatment groups and an exponential correlation with R2 of 0.98, showing that as the branching of the roots increased, the mass of fallen soil decreased exponentially. We also measured the number of plant root structures that fell in each treatment group and found that fewer plants were uprooted as branching increased. We concluded that more branched structures are correlated with less fallen mass. If larger-scale branched structures are applied to slopes, we believe they will benefit landslide mitigation.

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