Uncovering Tree Roots: How Radar Technology Can Help Scientists Better Understand Belowground Ecology

Kira A. Borden, Marney E. Issac


Just as the branches of a tree extend to support leaves that capture sunlight for photosynthesis, a tree’s root system extends into the soil in search of water and nutrients, and provides the tree its stability. However, the exact location of where the roots grow (often called ‘root distribution’) and the size or amount of roots (‘root biomass’) is extremely challenging to study in soil. Without digging the tree out of the ground, how can scientists study tree roots? Typically only parts of the root system are removed in a partial excavation or by taking soil core samples. However, there is a risk that by only measuring a portion of the root system, a lot of information might be missed (perhaps you have seen a tree uprooted and noticed how complex a tree root system can be). Unfortunately, excavating the entire tree root system can take a lot of time and energy, not to mention it is quite destructive.


below ground ecology; tree roots; ground penetrating radar; root biomass; radar technology

DOI: https://doi.org/10.13034/jsst.v8i3.100


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