Factors affecting the soil binding capacity of the root systems of some populus and salix clones : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Botany at Massey University
Man-induced changes in the vegetation of New Zealand over the last century have resulted in large areas of actively eroding land, both in the steeplands which still retain a form of forest cover, and in large areas of moderate to steep hill country cleared for pastoral use. By 1941, the seriousness of the problem had been recognised, and Catchment Authorities were constituted, under the auspices of the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Council, to undertake river and erosion control programs. Many techniques were used in erosion control work, but most emphasis has been placed on the planting of trees, largely Populus and Salix species. The planting of trees has proven to have a beneficial effect on counteracting erosion by slumping and gullying, both in retired areas and in those still grazed. It may be assumed that this effect is due primarily to the reinforcing and binding effect of their root systems. The reduction of soil moisture by evapotranspiration is considered to be of secondary importance, as water loss from these deciduous trees is very low in winter, which is the period of maximum soil moisture content and thus maximum instability. In the past, the selection of poplars and willows for erosion control purposes has been based on the growth and characteristics of the shoot of the tree, while almost nothing was known of the root systems. Variations in morphology and strength of root systems obviously are important factors in the selection of the most suitable species or varieties for soil stabilisation purposes. Objectives of the study The primary objective of the study was to Investigate the morphology, anatomy, and soil binding capacity of the root systems of a representative number of Populus and Salix clones, in order to determine whether any of the clones were likely to be superior for soil stabilisation purposes, and to determine which characteristics of the root systems were most important for this purpose, as a basis for the selection of improved varieties.