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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 37, Issue 5 — September 2011

Landslides and the Urban Forest    (View PDF)

Robert E. Loeb and Samuel King

Abstract: Trees and saplings were felled and killed by rockslides and soil slides formed during the record breaking rains of May 12, 2010, in Radnor Lake State Natural Area, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. The losses were analyzed by species; stem basal area; root plate diameter and depth; percent slope; occurrence in a rockslide or soil slide as well as species classification as a lateral root system species versus tap or heart root system species. The number of stems lost for each species had a distribution similar to the results of the 2009 Natural Area survey but the number of saplings was significantly underrepresented at the landslide sites. Tree deaths were nearly five times greater than saplings lost. Although there were nearly equal numbers of tree and sapling stems classified as possessing a lateral root system versus tap or heart root system, 74% of the sapling losses were from surface root system species. The means for root plate diameter and depth were significantly larger in rockslides than soil slides even though the mean stem basal area did not differ significantly. For both slide types, slope steepness was not correlated with root plate depth, root plate diameter, or stem basal area. Similarly for both root system classi-fications, slope steepness was not significantly correlated except for surface root system trees with root plate depth. Planting tap root system trees reduces the risk of landslide, but advances in the cultivation of taxa, such as hickory (Carya spp.), are needed to assure tap root preservation during transplantation.

Keywords: Rockslide; Root Plate; Root System; Soil Slide; Torrential Rain; Urban Trees.

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