Modelling increased soil cohesion due to roots with EUROSEM



As organic root exudates cause soil particles to adhere firmly to root surfaces, roots significantly increase soil strength and therefore also increase the resistance of the topsoil to erosion by concentrated flow. This paper aims at contributing to a better prediction of the root effects on soil erosion rates in the EUROSEM model, as the input values accounting for roots, presented in the user manual, do not account for differences in root density or root architecture. Recent research indicates that small changes in root density or differences in root architecture considerably influence soil erosion rates during concentrated flow. The approach for incorporating the root effects into this model is based on a comparison of measured soil detachment rates for bare and for root-permeated topsoil samples with predicted erosion rates under the same flow conditions using the erosion equation of EUROSEM. Through backwards calculation, transport capacity efficiencies and corresponding soil cohesion values can be assessed for bare and root-permeated topsoils respectively. The results are promising and present soil cohesion values that are in accordance with reported values in the literature for the same soil type (silt loam). The results show that grass roots provide a larger increase in soil cohesion as compared with tap-rooted species and that the increase in soil cohesion is not significantly different under wet and dry soil conditions, either for fibrous root systems or for tap root systems. Power and exponential relationships are established between measured root density values and the corresponding calculated soil cohesion values, reflecting the effects of roots on the resistance of the topsoil to concentrated flow incision. These relationships enable one to incorporate the root effect into the soil erosion model EUROSEM, through adapting the soil cohesion input value. A scenario analysis shows that the contribution of roots to soil cohesion is very important for preventing soil loss and reducing runoff volume. The increase in soil shear strength due to the binding effect of roots on soil particles is two orders of magnitude lower as compared with soil reinforcement achieved when roots mobilize their tensile strength during soil shearing and root breakage. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.