Geometry is one of the main factors controlling the overall stability of levees, in addition to their hydraulic and mechanical characteristics, while in turn, their material strength strongly depends on their degree of saturation. Given that levees are usually partially saturated (Lo Presti et al., 2020) and that this partial saturation greatly contributes to their stability, any technique aimed at maintaining the levee in this condition is extremely useful. Protection of the levee sides by means of geogrids and biomats reduces the amount of infiltration by water, helps water adsorption by grass vegetation and contributes to mechanical strength thanks to the root apparatus of the grass cover. Vegetation is a good system for controlling slope erosion and instability. It can reduce the meteoric water that infiltrates into the soil and consequently the pore pressure. On the other hand, the root systems not only keep the soil partially saturated but also increase the soil shear strength with their mechanical contribution. The mechanical parameters of the root-soil system are important to evaluate the increase in soil shear strength due to the roots. Mechanically, roots contribute to the stabilization/reinforcement of soil by means of an additional apparent cohesion. It is believed that this apparent cohesion originates mainly from the root tensile strength, as well as capillary forces in partially saturated soils. In terms of root cohesion, an evaluation of this reinforcement can be obtained by means of direct shear tests. The authors set up a systematic experimental activity using a large direct shear box (Vannucci et al. 2019) with the purpose of considering the dual effect of suction and the soil tensile strength. A series of direct shear tests (large and standard shear box) were carried out. This paper presents the results of an experimental laboratory investigation on samples of rooted soil. In particular, the results of direct shear tests with a large shear box (300 × 300 × 100 mm) and with a standard shear box are shown. The results confirm an increase in the soil shear strength, in terms of cohesion, when roots are present. 1
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