Storms can cause catastrophic damage to European forests. Surmising that anchorage is partly determined by root architecture, Dorval et al. computed the mechanical characteristics of the main components of root systems from 3D digitising data of 48 undamaged, leaning or heavily toppled Pinus pinaster trees from stands damaged by a storm 3 years previously.
The results show that it was mainly the flexural stiffness of the large main taproot at the central part of the root system that secured anchorage, preventing leaning and stump displacement. The distal section of the taproot and attached deep roots contributed to strong anchorage support and toppled trees were shown to have a lower relative root biomass – stump excluded – than straight trees. A variety of architectural root designs can provide good anchorage for trees, depending partly on available soil depth.
This paper is part of the Root Biology Special Issue.