Roots can help to stabilise slopes against landslides and anchor trees against wind loading, but their mechanical contribution to the strength of soil is difficult to rapidly quantify under field conditions. A new field measurement method, quantifying the shear strength of rooted soil by measuring the resistance against extraction of soil cores using a large corkscrew device, was tested across three heterogeneous slopes (unforested, forested and clearfelled) in Scotland. The presence of roots significantly increased the measured shear strength in the surface layer of the Sitka spruce forested slope. Differences in strength between the three areas were however not significant. This could be attributed to the large variation in the soil component of the combined root–soil shear strength, which was strongly affected by variations in both soil density and gravel content. Measured strength on these natural slopes were much more variable compared to previously investigated sites. These results highlight the importance of investigating the variation in soil strength during root-reinforcement measurements, and furthermore demonstrate the need for a sufficiently large number of tests to address this variation. The corkscrew provides rapid estimation of root-reinforced soil shear strength on sites with difficult accessibility. Compared to the more conventional shear vane method, which yielded comparable soil strength results, the corkscrew proved more suitable in stony soil layers and has the additional benefit of simultaneously extracting small (rooted) soil samples that could be used for further root and soil analysis. It therefore proved a useful and effective field tool for use when a rapid estimation of root-reinforced soil shear strength is required.
- field testing
- soil strength