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The Behaviour and Influence of Desiccation Cracking on a Full-Scale, Vegetated Infrastructure Embankment

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ross Stirling, Professor Stephanie Glendinning, Dr Colin DavieORCiD, Rosalind Hen-Jones, Dr Paul Hughes



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by UNSAT, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The mechanism behind desiccation cracking and its implications on earth structure stability have been under increasing study in recent decades, largely due to the uncertainty around our changing cli-mate. The resilience of our geotechnical infrastructure to projected climate change is of particular concern, making the need to understand the complex soil-vegetation-atmosphere interaction all the more crucial. A di-verse suite of instrumentation and geophysical techniques have been employed to gain a detailed understand-ing of embankment behaviour within the vadose zone subject to cycles of seasonal weather. Alongside soil-water content and matric suction sensing, high resolution linear displacement transducers have been used to track the highly sensitive crack aperture response to seasonal evapotranspiration trends and rainfall events. The transient influence of cracks on infiltration-runoff partitioning of rainfall has been investigated via runoff catchment monitoring. In addition to studying natural responses at the slope scale, 2D Electrical Resistivity Tomography has enabled visualisation of elevated water content ‘plumes’ beneath crack features. This paper highlights salient aspects of crack maturation, atmospheric field condition sensitivity, and the influence of vegetation presence on cracking and provides a reference point for full-scale, in situ behaviour of desiccation cracking beyond the constraints of laboratory settings.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stirling RA, Glendinning S, Davie CT, Hen-Jones R, Hughes PN

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 7th International Conference on Unsaturated Soils (UNSAT2018)

Year of Conference: 2018

Pages: 1-6

Print publication date: 05/08/2018

Acceptance date: 15/12/2017

Date deposited: 30/10/2018

Publisher: UNSAT