big trees with shallow roots

I saw some big trees but that had shallow roots (the roots are spread on the ground - you can stamp on them)- how come they did not go deep, and how can the tree withstand being big and standing the weather, wind etc

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Just because the roots are at the surface doesn't mean that they are shallow.  These trees likely are 'fast growers' and portions of the roots exposed to get oxygen - to sustain the growth.   ALso, soil erosion may have been the cause.  

Most likely there are very deep roots as well keeping the big'n stable.

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Trees are not intrinsically 'deep rooted' or 'shallow rooted', it usually depends on the type of soil they grow in. In waterlogged peaty soil, roots can be as shallow as 10cm from the surface.

Tree roots extend radially in every direction to a distance equal to at least the height of the tree (assuming no physical barriers) and grow predominantly near the soil surface.

Typically 90% of all roots, and virtually all the large structural supporting roots, are in the upper 60cm of the soil.
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One of the most astonishng things about the Giant Sequoia trees is that although they are immense and massive, their roots are unbelievably shallow.  Giant Sequoias always make me wonder how such shallow roots support such an immense tree.

Statements at this link:
give as good an explanation as any, of why the giant redwoods have such shallow roots

The roots of a coast redwood are very shallow, growing only four to six feet deep, but spread out from the tree as far as 125 feet. This isn’t much support for a tall, heavy tree—floodwaters can erode top layers of soil, exposing the roots and weakening a tree’s support system. Heavy rains and strong winds can bring even the biggest giant crashing to the ground.

But the roots of individual redwoods frequently grow intertwined with those of their neighbors. By "holding hands" underground, the roots form a network that allows the trees to withstand even great storms.
There may be many more and deeper roots below.

Otherwise youre right the big tree w/ shallow roots is dangerous.  Probably never got enough water.  Or the ground is so clayey that the roots can't burrow down, but not as likely.

Some reading for you: 
anushahannaAuthor Commented:
wow.. lot of science to it. Thanks for the links.
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