EGU General Assembly 2020
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Estimating additional root cohesion by exploiting a root topological model based on Leonardo’s Rule

Leonardo Valerio Noto1, Antonio Francipane1, Federico Preti3, Marco Petti2, and Elisa Arnone2
Leonardo Valerio Noto et al.
  • 1University of Palermo, Department of Engineering, Palermo, Italy (
  • 2University of Udine, DPIA, Udine, Italy
  • 3Università of Firenze, DAGRI, Firenze, Italy

Root topological models are schematic representations of the root structure based on a defined topology graph theory. In the context of hillslope stabilization modeling against rainfall-induced shallow landslides, the root topological models may be used in combination with root strength models assessment, such as the Root Bundle Model (RBM), to estimate the ultimate root reinforcement. The effect of plant roots on slope stabilization is determined by the interaction between soil and the hydrological processes (within the root zone) and the biotechnical characteristics of the root system, such as root length, root density, root tensile strength, root area, root diameter profile and the total number of roots. Describing adequately the root architecture of a plant species is useful, for example, to evaluate how the root structure may change in different soil and/or climatological conditions and, ultimately, as an example, to assess the most suitable plant species to be adopted.
This study exploits the potentiality of a root topological model based on Leonardo’s rule in describing root architectures of (i) different species (and tree individual) at given growth conditions, (ii) same species at different environmental conditions, e.g., exposure to light, water and nutrient availability. The former is supported by field campaign measurements from Tuscany region, the latter are reproduced starting from a reference case and imposing growth assumptions. Next, the information of the root system, in terms of root length, density, root diameter profile, total number of roots, are used to estimate, through a RBM approach, the additional root tensile force, deriving it from the force-deformation theory of linear elasticity in a rigorous framework aimed to derive the additional shear resistance from the Mohr-Coulomb’s failure plane. 
The preliminary results demonstrated the capability of the root topological model of reproducing different types of root system; additional data are required to further validate the model, with regard to the growth conditions simulation. Similarly, laboratory test of root strength would allow to quantify the improvement derived from the rigorous method adopted to estimate the additional root strength.

How to cite: Noto, L. V., Francipane, A., Preti, F., Petti, M., and Arnone, E.: Estimating additional root cohesion by exploiting a root topological model based on Leonardo’s Rule, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-18517,, 2020

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Presentation version 1 – uploaded on 30 Apr 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-18517, Alessio Cislaghi, 07 May 2020

    Congratulations for your interesting work!
    Just few questions: Is the root area referred to all the roots of the single plant? Once estimated the root area (or maybe the root density), how did you use this parameter inside the Root Bundle Model? 
    Thanks a lot! 

  • CC2: Comment on EGU2020-18517, Elisa Arnone, 07 May 2020

    Dear Alessio,

    thanks a lot for your interest and your question.

    The Root Area is easily computed once the root topology is full defined. We also had field data of Root Area and this allowed us to calibrate the model. The root density, here meant as the root area/soil rooted area, is required to estimate the tensile strength from the tensile force, which in turn is the result of the root bundle model.

    I suggest you to read our paper:

    Arnone E., D. Caracciolo, L. V. Noto, F. Preti, and R. L. Bras (2016) Modeling the hydrological and mechanical effect of roots on shallow landslides. Water Resources Research, 52 (11), 8590-8612

    Thanks again.


    • CC3: Reply to CC2, Alessio Cislaghi, 07 May 2020

      Dear Elisa, 

      I have already read your interesting paper on WRR (and congratulations!). 

      However, this particular step was not clear.

      Maybe, it will be a curious topic on which we will discuss at the next EGU!

      Thank you!