Application of ground penetrating radar for coarse root detection and quantification: a review

Application of ground penetrating radar for coarse root detection and quantification: a review

Li Guo1,Jin Chen1,Xihong Cui1,Bihang Fan1,Henry Lin2

1 State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China;

2 Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


AbstractBackground and Scope Because of the crucial role coarse roots (>2 mm diameter) play in plant functions and terrestrial ecosystems, detecting and quantifying the size, architecture, and biomass of coarse roots are important. Traditional excavation methods are labor intensive and destructive, with limited quantification and repeatability of measurements over time. As a nondestructive geophysical tool for delineating buried features in shallow subsurface, ground penetrating radar (GPR) has been applied for coarse root detection since 1999. This article reviews the state-of-know ledge of coarse root detection and quantification using GPR, and discusses its potentials, constraints, possible solutions, and future outlooks. Some useful suggestions are provided that can guide future studies in this field.

Conclusions The feasibility and accuracy of coarse root investigation by GPR have been tested in various site conditions (mostly in controlled conditions or within plantations) and for different plant species (mostly tree root systems). Thus far, single coarse root identification and coarse root system mapping have been conducted using GPR, including roots under pavements in urban environment. Coarse root diameter and biomass have been estimated from indexes extracted from root GPR radar grams. Coarse root development can be observed by repeated GPR scanning over time. Successful GPR-based coarse root investigation is site specific, and only under suitable conditions can reliable measurements be accomplished. The best quality of root detection by G PR is achieved in well-drained and electrically-resistive soils (such as sands) under dry conditions. Numerous factors such as local soil conditions, root electromagnetic properties, and GPR antenna frequency can impact the reliability and accuracy of GPR detection and quantification of coarse roots. As GPR design, data processing software, field data collection protocols, and root parameters estimation methods are continuously improved, this noninvasive technique could offer greater potential to study coarse roots.


KeywordsGround penetrating radar; Coarse root; Root system; Root detection; Root quantification.


Published in Plant and Soil. 2013, 362: 1-23.