Root reinforcement and slope bioengineering stabilization by Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum L.)
Abstract. The present paper deals with the root system's characteristics of Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum L.), a species whose capacity for adaptating and resisting to drought is worth investigating. In particular, the aims of the study were 1) to investigate the plant's bio-mechanical aspects and 2) to verify whether root reinforcement and the field rooting ability of stem cuttings enhance its potential for use in slope stabilization and soil bio-engineering techniques, particularly in the Mediterranean areas.
Single root specimens were sampled and tested for tensile strength, obtaining classic tensile strength-diameter relationships. Analysis were performed on the root systems in order to assess root density distribution. The Root Area Ratio (RAR) was analyzed by taking both direct and indirect measurements, the latter relying on image processing. The data obtained were used to analyze the stability of an artificial slope (landfill) and the root reinforcement. The measurement and calculation of mean root number, mean root diameter, RAR, root cohesion and Factor of safety are presented in order to distinguish the effect of plant origin and propagation.
Furthermore, tests were performed to assess the possibility of agamic propagation (survival rate of root-ball endowed plants, rooting from stem cuttings). These tests confirmed that agamic propagation is difficult, even though roots were produced from some buried stems, and for practical purposes it has been ruled out.
Our results show that Spanish Broom has good bio-mechanical characteristics with regard to slope stabilization, even in critical pedoclimatic conditions and where inclinations are quite steep, and it is effective on soil depths up to about 50 cm, in agreement with other studies on Mediterranean species. It is effective in slope stabilization, but less suitable for soil bio-engineering or for triggering natural plant succession.