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Publication# Extracting the Critical Rooting Length in Plant Uprooting by Flow From Pullout Experiments

Abstract

The growth and establishment of riparian vegetation on river bedforms is of hydrological as well as ecological importance as it helps in enhancing spatial heterogeneity and thus the biodiversity of river corridors. Yet, during floods, flow drag and scouring may reduce the rooting length of plants determining plant mortality via uprooting. In order for uprooting to occur, bed scouring must proceed until the rooting length reaches a critical value and drag forces exceed root residual anchorage. Therefore, the critical rooting length of a plant represents a crucial parameter to estimate the probability of plant removal due to flow erosion. However, difficulties in quantifying such length at the field scale have limited so far the performances of biomorphodynamic models for river bed evolution. In this work, we propose to assess the critical rooting length from controlled plant pullout experiments. To this aim, a free-body model of the forces acting on a flexible plant in a stream at different erosion stages is developed. At incipient uprooting, we conjecture that the root resistance at the critical rooting length equals that of a plant with equal rooting length when pulled out in static conditions. To illustrate our approach, we validate our model on three different data sets obtained from small- and real-scale plant uprooting experiments. A comparison between modeling and experimental observations reveals that the model provides valid results, despite its deterministic approach. The critical rooting lengths are finally used to assess the probability density function of the time to uprooting via a physically based stochastic model.

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