Following previous findings regarding the influence of vascular plants (mainly trees) on weathering, soil production and hillslope stability, in this study, we attempted to test a hypothesis regarding significant impacts of tree root systems on soil and regolith properties. Different types of impacts from tree root system (direct and indirect) are commonly gathered under the key term of “biomechanical effects”. To add to the discussion of the biomechanical effects of trees, we used a non-invasive geophysical method, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), to investigate the profiles of four different configurations at three study sites within the Polish section of the Outer Western Carpathians. At each site, one long profile (up to 189m) of a large section of a hillslope and three short profiles (up to 19.5m), that is, microsites occupied by trees or their remnants, were made. Short profiles included the tree root zone of a healthy large tree, the tree stump of a decaying tree and the pit-and-mound topography formed after a tree uprooting.The resistivity of regolith and bedrock presented on the long profiles and in comparison with the short profiles through the microsites it can be seen how tree roots impact soil and regolith properties and add to the complexity of the whole soil/regolith profile. Trees change soil and regolith properties directly through root channels and moisture migration and indirectly through the uprooting of trees and the formation of pit-and-mound topography. Within tree stump microsites, the impact of tree root systems, evaluated by a resistivity model, was smaller compared to microsites with living trees or those with pit-and-mound topography but was still visible even several decades after the trees were windbroken or cut down.The ERT method is highly useful for quick evaluation of the impact of tree root systems on soils and regolith. This method, in contrast to traditional soil analyses, offers a continuous dataset for the entire microsite and at depths not normally reached by standard soil excavations. The non-invasive nature of ERT studies is especially important for protected areas as it was shown in the present study.
Geomorphology – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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