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Use of BioEngineered Plant-Integrated Cover (BioEPIC) to Enhance Slope Performance (BioEPIC Slope)
Start date: 06 Oct 2014, End date: 05 Oct 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Climate change threatens the stability of infrastructure slopes, which form a large proportion of the European transport network. Slope failures due to increasing intense rainfall have already resulted in significant socio-economic loss across the Europe. Slope revegetation is identified as a more environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing stabilisation technique, when compared to other high-embodied-CO2 methods such as sprayed concrete cover. However, there are series of research questions at the interface of unsaturated soil mechanics and plant biophysics relating to this application that, if answered, will allow better engineered and widespread deployment of this ‘green’ solution. Many of these questions relate to the effects of plant transpiration on slope stability. The key aims of this project are to improve the understanding of soil-water-plant interaction, and then to apply the improved knowledge to quantify the performance of BioEngineered Plant-Integrated Cover (BioEPIC) slopes under a changing European climate. Through laboratory testing, parameters controlling root-water uptake will be identified, and they will be used to interpret the responses of BioEPIC slopes observed from scaled centrifuge tests. By “vegetating” novel “transpiring” root models to BioEPIC slope in the centrifuge, plant effects on long-term slope failure mechanisms will be investigated. This will create a high-quality database that will give engineers increased confidence in adopting BioEPIC to mitigate slope stability problems anticipated under climate change. Through the CIG, this project will generate original findings that will provide the first step for the applicant (who is holding his first permanent academic appointment in Europe) to build his research team as an integrated component of European research; and raise the international profile of the research excellence of EU with regards to devising sustainable and low-CO2 engineering solutions for slope stabilisation.
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