Integration of geometrical root system approximations in hydromechanical slope stability modelling

Elmar Schmaltz*, Rens V. Van Beek, Thom Bogaard, Stefan Steger, Thomas Glade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Spatially distributed physically based slope stability models are commonly used to assess landslide susceptibility of hillslope environments. Several of these models are able to account for vegetation related effects, such as evapotranspiration, interception and root cohesion, when assessing slope stability. However, particularly spatial information on the subsurface biomass or root systems is usually not represented as detailed as hydropedo- logical and geomechanical parameters. Since roots are known to influence slope stability due to hydrological and mechanical effects, we consider a detailed spatial representation as important to elaborate slope stability by means of physically based models. STARWARS/PROBSTAB, developed by Van Beek (2002), is a spatially distributed and dynamic slope stability model that couples a hydrological (STARWARS) with a geomechanical component (PROBSTAB). The infinite slope-based model is able to integrate a variety of vegetation related parameters, such as evaporation, interception capacity and root cohesion. In this study, we test two different approaches to integrate root cohesion forces into STARWARS/PROBSTAB. Within the first approach, the spatial distribution of root cohesion is directly related to the spatial distribution of land use areas classified as forest. Thus, each pixel within the forest class is defined by a distinct species related root cohesion value where the potential maximum rooting depth is only dependent on the respective species. The second method represents a novel approach that approximates the rooting area based on the location of single tree stems. Maximum rooting distance from the stem, maximum depth and shape of the root system relate to both tree species and external influences such as relief or soil properties. The geometrical cone-shaped approximation of the root system is expected to represent more accurately the area where root cohesion forces are apparent. Possibilities, challenges and limitations of approximating species-related root systems in infinite slope models are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandslides in Different Environments
EditorsMatjaž Mikoš, Željko Arbanas, Yueping Yin
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9783319534831
ISBN (Print)9783319534824
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
EventWorkshop on World Landslide Forum - Ljubljana, Slovenia
Duration: 29 May 20172 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameAdvancing Culture of Living with Landslides


ConferenceWorkshop on World Landslide Forum
Abbreviated titleWLF 2017


  • Physical based modelling
  • Root system approximation
  • Slope stability
  • Soil reinforcement


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