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One argument often given in favour of saving current and planting additional plants/saplings is the roots hold soil together and prevent soil erosion.

Unlike plants that may be uprooted, a large tree may only be chopped down; its roots continue to remain buried. Do these, now dead, roots continue to prevent soil erosion, or does the plant have to be alive and kicking?

My guess is the latter, perhaps because absorption of water possibly 'compresses' the soil over the root.

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You don't need to deprecate yourself like that, if a question is truly off the deep end, someone will comment. :) –  jonsca Jul 29 '12 at 10:33
    
Thank you, kindly –  Everyone Jul 29 '12 at 10:35

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The roots do actually continue to hold soil without being alie. The stabilizing properties are structural in nature. You begin to lose those though as the roots decompose, and the important roots against erosion, millions of fine root hairs, will go first. But leaving the roots in on a dead tree will help for a bit, but isn't a long term solution.

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Here's a study that gets at this question, examining how root decay of felled trees impacts slope stability. springerlink.com/content/q328v49v72w14762 –  DistribEcology Aug 1 '12 at 22:31

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