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DOI 10.1007/s10706-011-9446-5

REVIEW PAPER

Abdolhossein Khalilnejad Faisal Hj.Ali

Normaniza Osman

Received: 3 February 2011 / Accepted: 8 September 2011 / Published online: 28 September 2011

Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

includes a wide range of ground movements such as

rockfalls, deep failure of slopes and shallow debris

flows, and it can cause various problems in varied civil

fields such as roads and dams. Since most conventional methods are neither inexpensive nor applicable

everywhere, attention has nowadays been drawn to

soil bioengineering using vegetation as the environment-friendly method for slope stabilization. Soil

bioengineering or using vegetation in civil engineering design is mostly applicable to shallow slope

stabilization projects characterized by unstable slopes

with surface movement. Vegetation has both a silent

effect on soil improvement to predict the landslide and

a mechanical role to increase shear and pulling-out

stress on the soil. During the last decade, many

researches have been carried out to clarify the effect of

vegetation on slope stability, but many questions still

remain to be answered.

A. Khalilnejad (&) Faisal Hj.Ali

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Malaya,

Lembah Pantai 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

e-mail: farzad@siswa.um.edu.my;

farzad_khalilnejad@yahoo.com

Faisal Hj.Ali

Department of Civil Engineering, National Defense

University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

N. Osman

Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya,

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Vegetation Matric suction Subtropical region

List of symbols

c

Soil cohesion

/ Soil friction angle

W Soil dilation angle

m

Poisson coefficient

c

Volumetric weight

1 Introduction

Soil bioengineering, use of vegetation in civil engineering design, is now an established practice in many

parts of the world and is considered as a practical

alternative to more traditional methods of soil stabilization such as soil nailing or geosynthetic reinforcement. These methods are mostly utilized in shallow

slope stabilization projects characterized by unstable

slopes with surface movement. To analyse the contribution of vegetation to the slope stability, one needs to

consider its hydrological, biological and mechanical

roles. However, throughout this study, focus will be

more specifically on the mechanical role.

Soil and roots show some similarities with respect

to structure and ductile reaction to strain. Both these

elements deform to a great extent before they break.

Their retaining capacity is not lost during deflection

and subsidence of the relevant slope.

123

278

extraction by evapotranspiration process and in rain

drop interception by foliage. Foliage and plant residues

absorb the rainfall energy and prevent soil detachment

by raindrop splash. Also, root systems physically bind

or restrain soil particles while the above-ground

portions filter the sediment out of the run-off; as a

result, the stems and foliage increase the surface

roughness and slow the velocity of the run-off. Plants

and their residues help to maintain soil porosity and

permeability, thereby delaying the onset to run-off.

Soil reinforcement by roots is studied by considering the contribution of the tensile force in a root

segment that intersects a potential slip surface in a

rootsoil system, where the roots mechanically reinforce the soil by transferring shear stresses in the soil

to tensile resistance in the roots. Different types of root

systems of plants can provide different strengthening

effects on the stability of the slope via fibre reinforcement near the slope surface and deeper-binding soil

structure effect through tap or lateral root networks.

The anchorage of the roots and the improvement in

slope stability depend on the properties of the root

systems such as root distribution and tensile strength

(Nicoll and Ray 1996; Stokes and Guitard 1997;

Stokes et al. 1998; Normaniza and Barakbah 2006; Li

et al. 2007) as well as soil conditions.

Even root architecture has long been considered as

a major component of root anchorage, but some

researchers (Wu and Sidle 1995, Waldron and Dakessian 1981, Greenwood et al. 2004) suggest that the

reinforcing effect of vegetation can be considered in

conventional slope design by adding an additional root

cohesion term, cR, to the MohrCoulomb strength

envelope for soil. When the soil is permeated by fibres

(as in the case of roots), the displacement of soil, as a

consequence of shear tension, generates friction

between soil grains and fibre surfaces, causing the

fibres to deform and to mobilize their tensile strengths.

In this way, some of the shear tension can be

transferred from soil to fibres, producing a reinforcement of the soil matrix itself.

On the other hand, vegetation can protect soil from

erosion via foliage; also, they can draw water from soil

via respiration and transpiration and consequently

cause an increase in the soil suction by reducing the

soil moisture, which will help increase the shear

strength in soil, as discussed by Faisal et al. (1999).

123

2 Slope Stability

Sloping ground can be unstable if the gravity forces

acting on a mass of soil exceed the shear strength

available at the base of the mass and within it (Barnes

2000). Skempton and Hutchinson (1969) classified

land sliding as shown in Fig. 1.

Generally, land sliding occurs when shear stress (s)

in the slope overcomes the related shear strength (sf),

and the safety factor F is

F sf s:

1

As mentioned earlier in the introduction, different

mechanical parameters can affect the shear strength of

the soil and consequently the slope safety factor, for

example pore water pressure, due to the fact that when

pore water pressure increases, safety factor decreases.

To analyse slope stability, there are different

methods depending on the method of movement.

2.1 Plane Translational Slide

As shown in Fig. 1, translational slides are commonly

controlled structurally by surface weakness such as

faults, joints, bedding planes, and contacts between

bedrock and upper soil layer. This method can be

applicable when the slip surface (bedding planes, etc.)

is parallel to the ground surface as shown in Fig. 2.

Barnes (2000) showed that if slip surface is under

the water table, safety factor will be:

F c0 tg/0 cos2 b cz cw z ch hw cz sin b cos b

2

where b = slip surface angle, z = slip surface depth,

c = balk and saturated soil unit weight, hw = water

table depth, cw = water unit weight c0 = effective

cohesion impact and /0 = effective angle of internal

friction.

As mentioned earlier, increase in c0 and /0 can

cause an increase in the safety factor F.

2.2 Circular Arc Analysis

This method assumes that the slip surface is an arc that

cuts the ground surface in a certain point, as shown in

Fig. 3. Safety factor in this case will be given by:

279

Over the turning moment, there is a moment caused by

the weight of the soil over the slip surface and shear

resistance moment caused by shear strength in the slip

surface.

Barnes (2000) shows that in such a case, safety

factor will be:

F cu R2 h Wd:

3

2.3 Effective stress analysis

existed a relationship between the safety factor and

pore pressure ratio ru:

123

280

(Barnes 2000)

F m nru

This method was used to be applied until Barnes

found out that there was a relationship between safety

factor and /0 (Barnes 2000):

F a btg/0

Coefficient a refers to (hw/H), and b to both

(hw/H) and (c0 /cH), where H is the slope height.

Segment Stability

Greenway (1987) presented the hydromechanical

influence on slope stability as shown in Fig. 4.

Then, Coppin and Richard (1990) formulated the

main effects of vegetation on slope segment stability

(Fig. 5).

They gave the following formula for the calculation

of safety factor:

F c0 c0R cZ cw hw W cos2 b T sin h

tg/0 T cos h cZ W sin b D cos b

6

where c = unit weight of soil (kN/m3), Z = vertical

height of soil above the slip plane (m), b = slope

angle (), cw = unit weight of water (9.81 kN/m3),

hw = vertical height of groundwater table above the

slip plane (m), cR0 = enhanced effective soil cohesion

due to root matrix reinforcement by vegetation along

slip surface (kN/m2), c0 = enhanced effective soil

cohesion due to soil suction due to evaporation by

vegetation along slip surface (kN/m2), W = surcharge

due to weight of vegetation (kN/m), D = wind

123

root force acting at base of slice (kN/m).

Vegetation affects both the superficial and mass

stability of slopes significantly (Gray 1995). Soil and

roots show some similarities with respect to structure

and ductile reaction to strain. Both of these elements

deform to a great extent before they break. Their

retaining capacity is not lost during deflection and

subsidence of the relevant slope.

The shear strength function is defined in the stress

diagram by Mohr as the envelope of the circles of

rupture at different stressstrain states. This method

shows obviously that the common simplification of the

function by a straight line is only valid in case of small

extents of surcharge. The depth of the soil covered by

roots is usually not deeper than 1, 5 or 2 metres. On the

soil surface, there is no surcharge and the stresses are

not considerable as compared to deeper layers. The

respective values are close to the values in the stress

diagram mentioned above. The envelope is not a linear

function of the shear parameters / and c, which are

parameters used to simplify calculation, but do not

effectively describe the quality of the material.

Tobias (1995) described data analysis with the

superposition of passive stress state, where it was

shown that shear strength in the root layer was 955%

higher than the underneath depending on the type of

the plant. Using a basic model for soilroot interaction, Gray and Leiser (1980) discussed that shear

strength increases in the reinforced soil by roots. The

angle of the roots being 90 to the shear surface, the

shear strength is contributed by root reinforcement,

and Sr (limit equilibrium) requires that (Fig. 6a):

281

Fig. 4 Hydromechanical

influence on the slope

stability (Greenway 1987)

Sr Ty Tz tg/ A

7

7a

inclination of T, A = area of the section under

consideration and / = angle of internal friction of soil.

Sr rrArcos a sin atg/=A

7b

Gray and Ohashi (1983) show that for 48 \ a \ 72,

Eq. 7b is applicable and cosa ? sinatg/ & 1.2.

123

282

vegetation on slope segment

stability (Coppin and

Richards 1990)

reinforcement no longer deforms with the soil. To

consider the deformation and bending resistance on

the reinforcement, Oden and Ripperger (1981) used

the following equation for the tie (Fig. 6c):

EI d4 u dz4 Tz d2 u dz2 q

8

where E and I = Youngs modulus and moment of

inertia of the root reinforcement, q = soil reaction and

u = displacement. This equation can be simplified to

flexible cable if gL = 2.5, where g = (Tz/EI) and

L = length of the tie (deformed portion of root

reinforcement) in this case:

Fig. 6 Simple models; a limit equilibrium; b flexible reinforcement; c cable model (Tobias 1995)

will be deformed together or it will have no effect on

the shear deformation, where a is determined by the

shear stress in the soil (Fig. 6b). In this case, Eqs. 7, 7a

and 7b would still be valid, provided that the correct

value of T and rr is used.

Abe and Ziemers (1991) experiment with the

reinforced wall showed that by increasing the bending

123

Tz 0 T L

8a

Ty 0 qyL

u0 qyL2 2Tz 0:

8b

8c

roots perpendicular to the slope, small amounts of u,

a ? 90 or Tz ? 0 can be used, which represents

initial failure when the root yields. If the root is ductile

and does not fracture, u and T increase continuously

until the cable solution is applicable.

In addition, deep woody root is more effective in

preventing shallow mass stability failures. Roots

mechanically reinforce soil transferring shear stress in

283

anchored and embedded stems can act as buttress piles

or arch abutment to counteract down slope shear force.

What is more, the weight of vegetation can (in certain

instances) increase the stability via increased confining (normal) stress on the failure surface (Gray and

Sotir 1996). On the other hand, the roots provide better

connection between particles in the soil body (tensile

force on the surface), which results in some cementation forces of the mass of the soil.

However, a dense herbaceous cover is one of the

best protections against superficial rainfall and wind

erosion. Soil looses due to rainfall erosion can be

decreased a hundred-fold (Johansson 2000), maintaining a dense herbaceous cover. This protection has a

significant role both in soil moisture extraction by

evapotranspiration process and in rain drop interception by foliage. Foliage and plant residues absorb the

rainfall energy and prevent soil detachment by raindrop splash. Also, the root systems physically bind or

restrain the soil particles while the above-ground

portions filter the sediment out of run-off; therefore,

the stems and foliage increase the surface roughness

and slow velocity of the run-off. Plants and their

residues help to maintain soil porosity and permeability, thereby delaying the onset of run-off.

Gray and Sotir (1996) described computed soil loss

(e.g. tons) per acre for a given storm. The time interval

(A) can be obtained by examining the Universal Soil

Loss Equation (USLE):

A R K LS C P

LS = topographic factor, C = vegetation factor and

P = erosion control practice factor.

USLE equation provides a method of estimating the

soil losses and range of variability of each of the

parameters in order to change, manage or limit the soil

losses. Furthermore, Brenner (1973) showed that

evapotranspiration by vegetation can reduce pore

water pressures within the soil mantle on the natural

slopes, promoting the stability.

the Effect on Soil Characteristics

As Lu described (2006), particle-scale equilibrium

analyses are employed to distinguish three types of

through the soil grain; (2) active forces at or near

interparticle contacts; and (3) passive, or counterbalancing, forces at or near interparticle contacts. The

second type of force includes physicochemical forces,

cementation forces, surface tension forces and the

force arising from negative pore water pressure; all

these forces can be conceptually combined into a

macroscopic stress called suction stress.

Terzaghi (1943) in saturated soil showed that:

r0 r uw

10

uw = pore water pressure.

On the other hand, Coulomb equation for shear

strength in saturated soil is:

s c0 r0 tg/0

11

With the replacement of r0 from Eq. 10 to 11, we

will have:

s c0 r uw tg/0 :

12

r0 r 1 cs =cuw

13

As shown above, uw is present in both of the

equations, which caused capillary force in the

soil moisture. This force in macroscopic engineering behaviour of the soil can be apparent by

the associated increase in shear and tensile

strength.

Bishop (1959) added one parameter to the Taraghis

equation:

r0 r ua xua uw

14

matric suction and x is effective stress parameter

(considered to vary between zero and unity).

Jennings and Burland (1962) stated that mechanical

parameter in unsaturated soil is affected differently by

changes in the net normal stress than by matric

suction. In other words, increase in matric suction

results in increase in shear strength, which we describe

as /b.

123

284

As Fredlund and Morgensterns (1978) independent stress variable approach incorporates Eq. 12 and

MohrCoulomb circle, shear strength (s) would be:

s c0 r ua xua uw tg/0 :

15

effect of change in the total normal stress can be

separated from the effect of change in pore water

pressure as shown below:

s c0 r ua tg/0 ua uw tg/b

16

shear strength related to soil matric suction.

When matric suction (ua - uw) reaches zero (in

saturated soil), Eq. 16 will become Eq. 12.

They illustrated MohrCoulomb circles in a threedimensional manner in the case of unsaturated soil in

Fig. 7. In this model, they described the shear stress s

as the ordinate and (r - ua) and (ua - uw) as

abscissas. Since pore-air pressure replacing with

pore-water pressure in case of saturation, (r - ua)

axis changes for (r - uw).

As shown in Table 1 and Fig. 7, the value of /b is

mostly less than or equal to /0 .

They show that shear stress has a direct relationship

with the matric suction as illustrated in Fig. 8.

As shown in the diagram, the equation for the line is:

c c0 ua uw f tg/b

17

matric suction on the failure plane at failure.

Fig. 7 Extended Mohr

Coulomb failure envelope

for unsaturated soil

(Fredlund and Morgenstern

1978)

123

saturation process, c is decreasing as shown in Fig. 9.

The cohesion inspects C1, C2 and C3, like total

cohesion, have a direct relationship with the matric

suction.

With the substitution of Eq. 12 for Eq. 11, the shear

strength (sff) will be:

sff c r ua f tg/0 :

18

characteristic curve is another important relationship for unsaturated soil. SWCC is the relationship

between soil water content and matric suction. In

this research, they found out that increase in matric

suction in the unsaturated soil produces the same

increase in the shear strength as does an increase in

net normal stress; the increase in shear strength

with respect to matric suction becomes less than

the increase with respect to the net normal stress.

In fact, in this research, it was shown that the

stress state in an unsaturated soil can be represented by two independent stress tensors as

(Eqs. 19, 20):

ox ua

sxy

sxz

syx

oy ua

syz

19

sxz

szy

oz ua

ua uw

0

0

:

20

0

ua uw

0

0

0

ua uw

285

Soil type

c0 (kPa)

/0 ()

15.8

24.8

/b ()

Test procedure

Reference

18.1

9.6

27.3

21.7

qd = 1,580 kg/m3

37.3

28.5

16.2

Satija (1978)

qd = 1,478 kg/m3

20.3

29.0

12.6

Satija (1978)

qd = 1,580 kg/m3

15.5

28.5

22.6

triaxial

Satija (1978)

qd = 1,478 kg/m3

11.3

29.0

16.5

Satija (1978)

23.7

22.5a

16.1

shear

Escario (1980)

Hong Kong

28.9

33.4

15.3

Consolidated drained

multistage triaxial

Hong Kong

7.4

35.3

13.8

Consolidated drained

multistage triaxial

w = 21.5%, qd = 1,590 kg/m3

0.0

35.0

16.0

Consolidated drained

multistage triaxial

25.3

725.5

Consolidated drained

multistage direct shear

w = 12.2%, qd = 1,810 kg/m3

a

10

Average value

suction causes an increase in the shear strength;

however, this increase is not the result of increase in

/0 . On the other hand, they found almost the same

/0 for different matric suctions.

volume change in a three-dimensional surface with

respect to the state parameters (ua - uw) and (r - ua).

Anderson (1991) in his model for slope/hydrology

stability used the effect of increasing the water table in

along the failure plan on the

s versus (ua - uw) plane

(Fredlund and Morgenstern

1978)

123

286

Fig. 9 Horizontal

projection of contour lines

of the failure envelope onto

the s versus (r - ua)

(Fredlund and Morgenstern

1978)

increase in soil strength through suction effect

(Anderson and Lloyd 1991).

Faisal et al. (2006b) with the same scheme as above

simulated a change in the dynamic/hydrological

condition due to rainfall and discussed the responsibility of pure water pressure change (negative and

positive) in the slope stability analysis. They showed

that in the tropical regions, the soils involved are often

residual soils and have deep water tables. The surface

soils have negative pore water pressures that play a

significant role in the stability of the slope.

Because of heavy rain during the rainy season in

this region, water table can be changed in a short

period of time, leading to slope instability (result of

wet and dry cycle). But mostly in the slope stability

analysis, suction stress was ignored. In this study, it

was shown that for a given rainfall intensity

qs = 1 9 10-6 m/s, the factor of safety of the slope

tended to decrease with the increase in permeability

(ks) of the soil. The factor of safety of the slope also

reduced with increase in the slope height. Also, it was

discussed that in the simple soil section, the factor of

safety has a linear relationship with rate of change in

shear strength with respect to suction stress, which is

shown below:

F f s tan /b

21

coefficients, and tan /b = the rate of change in shear

strength with respect to matric suction.

123

surface not only decreases the infiltration but also

changes the suction value.

They also found out that soil without surface cover

appears to have higher infiltration rate compared with

the soil covered with grass. It appears that the presence

of grass encourages more water pounding. Besides, the

root system also helps in increasing the rate of water

infiltration. Suction monitoring in this study shows

that the suction values at steady state for model with

grass as its surface cover are generally marginally

lower. This may be due to the effect of roots that

formed abnormal water passage for the water to

infiltrate.

As shown in Fig. 10, shear stress along the slope is

converted into the pulling-out force at the end of the

slope (plane area). The roots in this area show some

resistance against this kind of force, as shown

below.

This kind of resistance plays a key role in slope

stability as the root is protecting the soil at the end of

the slope against the pulling-out force. Roots show

some kind of resistance against the slope failure by

decreasing shear stress along the slope. The mechanism of this effect fixes the plain part of the end of the

slope by increasing the pulling-out resistance in this

part.

287

at the end of the slope

7 Conclusion

The present study addresses the mechanism of roots

anchorage in soil slope. It is a priority because of the

effect of vegetation roots on the hazards of land

sliding, especially in subtropical and tropical areas

with dense herb coverage.

Since 1973, over 500 papers have been published

on the effect of root anchorage on slope stability. The

basic mechanisms to deal with the problem are

hydrological and mechanical mechanisms (Fig. 4).

The major influence of vegetation on slope segment

stability is shown in Fig. 5.

The following are the mechanical mechanisms of

root anchorage in slope stability:

Direct shear stress carried by the root (Fig. 6),

prevention of shallow mass stability failure, prevention of pulling-out at the end of slope and effect of

vegetation on slope stability via the effect on soil

characteristics such as matric suction, effective stress

pore water pressure and cohesion intercept.

Acknowledgments The authors are really grateful to

University Malaya and Professor N. Shokrpour from Shiraz

University of Medical sciences, Iran, for editing the manuscript

for English.

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