Members of the ERODYN team at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano have developed a novel in-situ method for measuring the surface-parallel tensile strength of the topsoil. The densely interwoven roots of herbaceous vegetation can form a strong reinforcement in the top soil (“surface-mat”), and this may be an important factor for resistance against small-scale shallow erosion, e.g. by lateral redistribution of stress and prevention of tension cracks in the turf. The method has been applied at montane grassland test sites to investigate potential effects of soil physical and biological factors. The results suggest that suitable vegetation management can enhance the topsoil stability through increasing the surface-mat effect.
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