Hydrological effect of vegetation against rainfall-induced landslides

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Specialist publicationJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Jun 2017


The hydrological effect of vegetation on rainfall-induced landslides has rarely been quantified and its integration into slope stability analysis methods remains a challenge. Our goal was to establish a reproducible, novel framework to evaluate the hydrological effect of vegetation on shallow landslides. This was achieved by accomplishing three objectives: (i) quantification in situ of the hydrological mechanisms by which woody vegetation (i.e. Salix sp.) might impact slope stability under wetting and drying conditions; (ii) to propose a new approach to predict plant-derived matric suctions under drying conditions; and (iii) to evaluate the suitability of the unified effective stress principle and framework (UES) to quantify the hydrological effect of vegetation against landslides. The results revealed that plant water uptake was the main hydrological mechanism contributing to slope stability, as the vegetated slope was, on average, 12.84% drier and had matric suctions three times higher than the fallow slope. The plant-related mechanisms under wetting conditions had a minimal effect on slope stability. The plant aerial parts intercepted up to 26.73% of the rainfall and concentrated a further 10.78% of it around the stem. Our approach successfully predicted the plant-derived matric suctions and UES proved to be adequate for evaluating the hydrological effect of vegetation on landslides. Although the UES framework presented here sets the basis for effectively evaluating the hydrological effect of vegetation on slope stability, it requires knowledge of the specific hydro-mechanical properties of plant-soil composites and this in itself needs further investigation.


  • hydrology, vegetation, willow trees, matric suction, landslides, slope stability