The influence of plant root system architectural properties upon the stability of loess hillslopes, Northeast Qinghai, China

Jiang tao Fu, Xia song Hu*, Gary Brierley, Na Qiao, Qin qin Yu, Hai jing Lu, Guo rong Li, Hai li Zhu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


To investigate the influence of root system architectural properties of three indigenous (cold-adapted) shrubs on the hillslope stability of loess deposits in the Xining Basin, northeast part of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP), indoor direct shear tests have been conducted on the remolded rooted soil of three shrubs. Test results show that root system architectural indices (root area ratio (RAR), root length density (RLD) and root density (RD)) of the shrubs decline with depth and the relationship between RAR, RD and depth is exponential, while a power relationship describes the relationship between RLD and depth. The cohesion force of remolded rooted soil for the shrubs initially increases with depth, but it then demonstrates a slightly decreasing trend, which can be described with a power relationship. Power relationships also describe relationships between cohesion force and RAR, RLD and RD for the shrubs. As the growth period increases from 10 to 17 months, the incremental increase in RAR is 48.32% ~ 210.25% for Caragana korshinskii Kom and 0.56% ~ 166.85% for Zygophyllum xanthoxylon (Bunge) Maxim. This proportional increase is notably larger than that for RLD and RD. The increment in RAR is marginally greater for C. korshinskii than it is for Z. xanthoxylon. Correspondingly, the cohesion force incremental rates of remolded rooted soil for C. korshinskii and Z. xanthoxylon are 12.41% ~ 25.22% and 3.45% ~ 17.33% respectively. Meanwhile, as root content increases, the contribution by roots to cohesion force increases markedly until a threshold condition is reached.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-801
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Mountain Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cold region
  • Hillslope stability
  • Plateau
  • Root system architectural indices
  • Semiarid region
  • Soil reinforcement


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