The variability of root cohesion as an influence on shallow landslide susceptibility in the Oregon Coast Range

Canadian Geotechnical Journal
By: , and 



Decades of quantitative measurement indicate that roots can mechanically reinforce shallow soils in forested landscapes. Forests, however, have variations in vegetation species and age which can dominate the local stability of landslide-initiation sites. To assess the influence of this variability on root cohesion we examined scarps of landslides triggered during large storms in February and November of 1996 in the Oregon Coast Range and hand-dug soil pits on stable ground. At 41 sites we estimated the cohesive reinforcement to soil due to roots by determining the tensile strength, species, depth, orientation, relative health, and the density of roots 1 mm in diameter within a measured soil area. We found that median lateral root cohesion ranges from 6.8–23.2 kPa in industrial forests with significant understory and deciduous vegetation to 25.6–94.3 kPa in natural forests dominated by coniferous vegetation. Lateral root cohesion in clearcuts is uniformly 10 kPa. Some 100-year-old industrial forests have species compositions, lateral root cohesion, and root diameters that more closely resemble 10-year-old clearcuts than natural forests. As such, the influence of root cohesion variability on landslide susceptibility cannot be determined solely from broad age classifications or extrapolated from the presence of one species of vegetation. Furthermore, the anthropogenic disturbance legacy modifies root cohesion for at least a century and should be considered when comparing contemporary landslide rates from industrial forests with geologic background rates.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The variability of root cohesion as an influence on shallow landslide susceptibility in the Oregon Coast Range
Series title Canadian Geotechnical Journal
DOI 10.1139/cgj-38-5-995
Volume 38
Issue 5
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Canadian Science Publishing
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 30 p.
First page 995
Last page 1024
Country United States
State Oregon
Other Geospatial Oregon Coast Range
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