USDA Forest Service (FS) researchers are improving the use of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to study tree roots nondestructively. They are refining GPRs processing capabilities by comparing results with those of more invasive methods.
Kurt Johnsen, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station uses an air-knife to remove soil from a loblolly pine root system.
GPR is an electromagnetic imaging technique that can be used to detect buried objects or hidden structures. GPR has been used for geological research, archaeology, forensics, and for assessing the integrity of roads and bridges. FS researchers soon recognized the potential for using the technology in forest-based research.
Measuring the belowground growth of trees is essential to understanding forest productivity and carbon allocation. Estimating the biomass of tree roots traditionally involves using soil cores, pits, and trenches--digging up roots, then sieving, washing, drying, and weighing them. These methods are destructive, labor-intensive, and not very useful for measuring the lateral extent of a root system.
John Butnor | EurekAlert!
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