Experimental characterization of vegetation uprooting by flow

K. Edmaier, B. Crouzy, P. Perona*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate vegetation uprooting by flow for Avena sativa seedlings with stem-to-sediment size ratio close to unity and vanishing obstacle-induced scouring. By inducing parallel riverbed erosion within an experimental flume, we measure the time-to-uprooting in relation to root anchoring and flow drag forces. We link the erosion rate to the uprooting timescales for seedlings with varying mean root length. We show that the process of continuous erosion leading to uprooting resembles that of mechanical fatigue where system collapsing occurs after a given exposure time. By this analogy, we also highlight the nonlinear role of the residual root anchoring versus the flow drag acting on the canopy when uprooting occurs. As a generalization, we propose a framework to extend our results to time-dependent erosion rates, which typically occur for real river hydrographs. Finally, we discuss how the characteristic timescale of plant uprooting by flow erosion suggests that vegetation survival is conditioned by multiple erosion events and their interarrival time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1812-1824
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015


  • Avena sativa
  • flow erosion
  • flume experiment
  • river ecohydraulics
  • riverbed vegetation
  • uprooting dynamics

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