One fifth of the world's population is living in mountains or in their surrounding areas. This anthropogenic pressure continues to grow with the increasing number of settlements, especially in areas connected to touristic activities, such as the Italian Alps. The process of soil formation on high mountains is particularly slow and these soils are particularly vulnerable to soil degradation. In alpine regions, extreme meteorological events are increasingly frequent due to climate change, speeding up the process of soil degradation and increasing the number of severe erosion processes, shallow landslides and debris flows. Vegetation cover plays a crucial role in the stabilization of mountain soils thereby reducing the risk of natural hazards effecting downslope areas. Soil aggregate stability is one of the main soil properties that can be linked to soil loss processes. Soils developed on moraines in recently deglaciated areas typically have low levels of soil aggregation, and a limited or discontinuous vegetation cover making them more susceptible to degradation. However, soil structure can be influenced by the root system of the vegetation. Roots are actively involved in the formation of water-stable soil aggregation, increasing the stability of the soil and its nutrient content. In the present study, we aim to quantify the effect of the root system of alpine vegetation on the soil aggregate stability of the forefield of the Lys glacier, in the Aosta Valley (NW-Italy). This proglacial area provides the opportunity to study how the root system of ten pioneer alpine species from different successional stages can contribute to soil development and soil stabilization. To quantify the aggregate stability of root permeated soils, a modified wet sieving method was employed. The root length per soil volume of the different species was also determined and later correlated with the aggregate stability results. The results showed that soil aggregate stability was significantly increased by the presence of roots. The lowest soil aggregate stability was found with Epilobium fleischeri followed by Minuartia recurva and Leucanthemopsis alpina. The highest aggregate stability was found with the graminoid species. These results show a close relationship between the development of root systems of the studied species and soil aggregate stability, a factor which can be taken into consideration in order to improve the accuracy of existing susceptibility mapping for early warning and civilian protection.

Quantifying the contribution of the root system of alpine vegetation in the soil aggregate stability of moraine / C. Hudek, S. Stanchi, M. D'Amico, M. Freppaz. - In: INTERNATIONAL SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION RESEARCH. - ISSN 2095-6339. - 5:1(2017 Mar 15), pp. 36-42. [10.1016/j.iswcr.2017.02.001]

Quantifying the contribution of the root system of alpine vegetation in the soil aggregate stability of moraine

M. D'Amico;M. Freppaz
2017-03-15

Abstract

One fifth of the world's population is living in mountains or in their surrounding areas. This anthropogenic pressure continues to grow with the increasing number of settlements, especially in areas connected to touristic activities, such as the Italian Alps. The process of soil formation on high mountains is particularly slow and these soils are particularly vulnerable to soil degradation. In alpine regions, extreme meteorological events are increasingly frequent due to climate change, speeding up the process of soil degradation and increasing the number of severe erosion processes, shallow landslides and debris flows. Vegetation cover plays a crucial role in the stabilization of mountain soils thereby reducing the risk of natural hazards effecting downslope areas. Soil aggregate stability is one of the main soil properties that can be linked to soil loss processes. Soils developed on moraines in recently deglaciated areas typically have low levels of soil aggregation, and a limited or discontinuous vegetation cover making them more susceptible to degradation. However, soil structure can be influenced by the root system of the vegetation. Roots are actively involved in the formation of water-stable soil aggregation, increasing the stability of the soil and its nutrient content. In the present study, we aim to quantify the effect of the root system of alpine vegetation on the soil aggregate stability of the forefield of the Lys glacier, in the Aosta Valley (NW-Italy). This proglacial area provides the opportunity to study how the root system of ten pioneer alpine species from different successional stages can contribute to soil development and soil stabilization. To quantify the aggregate stability of root permeated soils, a modified wet sieving method was employed. The root length per soil volume of the different species was also determined and later correlated with the aggregate stability results. The results showed that soil aggregate stability was significantly increased by the presence of roots. The lowest soil aggregate stability was found with Epilobium fleischeri followed by Minuartia recurva and Leucanthemopsis alpina. The highest aggregate stability was found with the graminoid species. These results show a close relationship between the development of root systems of the studied species and soil aggregate stability, a factor which can be taken into consideration in order to improve the accuracy of existing susceptibility mapping for early warning and civilian protection.
Soil aggregate stability; Root length density; Pioneer alpine species; Glacier forefield
Settore AGR/14 - Pedologia
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/873378
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