Desiccation cracking of soils: A review of investigation approaches, underlying mechanisms, and influencing factors

Chao Sheng Tang, Cheng Zhu, Qing Cheng, Hao Zeng, Jin Jian Xu, Ben Gang Tian, Bin Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


The purpose of this paper is to review the development and the state of the art in desiccation cracking characterization methods and review the desiccation cracking behaviors of soils. The review begins by briefly introducing in Section 1 the influences of desiccation cracking on soil properties and the significance of studying this topic. Section 2 summarizes the past and existing experimental approaches that have been invented and adopted for soil desiccation cracking investigations at both laboratory and field scales. Various theoretical frameworks formulated to account for the underlying cracking mechanisms are presented in Section 3. Section 4 shows the implementation of theoretical frameworks into mesh-based and mesh-free numerical tools to capture the initiation, propagation, and coalescence of desiccation cracks. Section 5 describes the crack dynamics in desiccating soils, with emphases placed on the coupled process of water evaporation, suction increase, and volume shrinkage, and the crack network evolution. Section 6 discusses major influencing factors of soil desiccation cracking covering soil intrinsic properties, boundary constraints, environmental conditions, and soil admixtures. Finally, a brief summary and proposed prospective research works are presented in Sections 7.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103586
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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