Soil piping is an important land degradation process that occurs in a wide range of environments. Despite an increasing number of studies on this type of subsurface erosion, the impact of vegetation on piping erosion is still unclear. It can be hypothesized that vegetation, and in particular plant roots, may reduce piping susceptibility of soils because roots of vegetation also control concentrated flow erosion rates or shallow mass movements. Therefore, this paper aims to assess the impact of grass roots on piping erosion susceptibility of a sandy soil. The pinhole test was used as it provides quantitative data on pipeflow discharge, sediment concentration and sediment discharge. Tests were conducted at different hydraulic heads (i.e., 50mm, 180mm, 380mm and 1020mm). Results showed that the hydraulic head was positively correlated with pipeflow discharge, sediment concentration and sediment discharge, while the presence of grass roots (expressed as root density) was negatively correlated with these pipeflow characteristics. Smaller sediment concentrations and sediment discharges were observed in root-permeated samples compared to root-free samples. When root density exceeds 0.5kgm−3, piping erosion rates decreased by 50% compared to root-free soil samples. Moreover, if grass roots are present, the positive correlation between hydraulic head and both sediment discharge and sediment concentration is less pronounced, demonstrating that grass roots become more effective in reducing piping erosion rates at larger hydraulic heads. Overall, this study demonstrates that grass roots are quite efficient in reducing piping erosion rates in sandy soils, even at high hydraulic head (>1m). As such, grass roots may therefore be used to efficiently control piping erosion rates in topsoils.
Geomorphology – Elsevier
Published: Oct 15, 2017
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