UBC Undergraduate Research
The Role of Roots in Slope Stability Ip, Jerome
The presence of roots is highly influential on slope stability. The strength properties of the roots and the extensiveness of the root network dictate the degree of mechanical stabilization. Research surrounding this topic has expanded significantly in the last thirty years due to the attention gathered from deforestation in mountainous areas leading to landslides and slope failures (Nilaweera & Nutalaya, 1999). Roots provide mechanical stabilization of slopes through its tensile strength, frictional properties and bending stiffness. An ideal slope contains both fine and coarse roots, as both offer different advantages. Fine roots have higher tensile strengths and are effective at stabilizing the upper soil layers while coarse roots extend into greater depths of the soil and aid in anchoring large volumes of soil. The growth of roots among other factors can create continuous macropores known as soil pipes. Soil pipes improve drainage, which help to dissipate pore water pressure and is especially important in slopes experiencing large volumes of rainfall. However, when soil pipes become eroded and the cavities become blocked, water can build up and cause a slope failure.
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