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Root density drives aggregate stability of soils of different moraine ages in the Swiss Alps

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Greinwald Konrad, Gebauer Tobias, Treuter Ludwig, Kolodziej Victoria, Musso Alessandra, Maier Fabian, Lustenberger Florian, Scherer-Lorenzen Michael,
Project HILLSCAPE (HILLSlope Chronosequence And Process Evolution) - Identifying dominant controls on hillslope functioning and feedback processes by interdisciplinary experiments along chronosequences
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Plant and Soil
Volume (Issue) 468(1-2)
Page(s) 439 - 457
Title of proceedings Plant and Soil
DOI 10.1007/s11104-021-05111-8

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


AbstractAimsThe stability of hillslopes is an essential ecosystem service, especially in alpine regions with soils prone to erosion. One key variable controlling hillslope stability is soil aggregate stability. We aimed at identifying dominant controls of vegetation parameters on aggregate stability and analysed their importance for soil aggregate stability during landscape development.MethodsWe quantified the aggregate stability coefficient (ASC) and measured plant cover, diversity, root mass and root length, density (RMD, RLD) along two chronosequences with contrasting bedrocks (siliceous, calcareous) in the Swiss Alps.ResultsWe found that ASC developed slower along the calcareous chronosequence. Furthermore, we observed a significant positive effect of vegetation cover and diversity on ASC that was mediated via root density. These relationships developed in a time-depended manner: At young terrain ages, vegetation parameters had a strong effect on aggregate stability compared to older stages. Moreover, RLD was the most powerful predictor of ASC on young terrain, whereas on older moraines RMD became more important.ConclusionsWe highlight that root density plays a major role in governing ASC for soils differing in moraine ages. The changing importances of RLD and RMD for ASC development suggest different mechanistic linkages between vegetation and hillsope stability during landscape development.