Influence of root characteristics and soil variables on the uprooting mechanics of Avena sativa and Medicago sativa seedlings
The success of seedlings and rejuvenated woody debris growing on river bedforms depends on the resistance to uprooting by flow provided by their simple root architecture. Avena sativa and Medicago sativa seedlings were used in flume experiments as prototypes for juvenile riparian plants. Very little is known about the magnitude of root anchoring forces and the role of secondary roots of such simple root systems. We performed 1550 vertical uprooting experiments on Avena sativa and Medicago sativa seedlings grown in quartz sand. Seedlings were pulled up by direct traction using a wheel driven by a computer-controlled motor and the force was recorded. Roots were scanned and architectural parameters (root length and number of roots) determined. Uprooting force and work (the integral of the applied force times the distance over which it is applied) were then related to root architecture and soil variables. Resistance to uprooting increased with decreasing sediment size and sediment moisture content. The initial response of the root-soil system to uprooting showed linear elastic behaviour with modulus increasing with plant age. While the maximum uprooting force was found to increase linearly with total root length and be mainly dependent on the length of the main root, uprooting work followed a power law and has to be related to the whole root system. Thus, for the young plants we considered, secondary roots are responsible for the ability to withstand environmental disturbances in terms of duration rather than magnitude. This distinction between primary and secondary roots can be of crucial importance for seedlings of riparian species germinating on river bars and islands where inundation is a main cause of mortality. Beyond clarifying the biomechanical role of soil and root variables, the uprooting statistics obtained are useful in interpreting and designing ecomorphodynamic flume experiments. Copyright (C) 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.