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Title: Advancing Understanding of the Role of Belowground Processes in Terrestrial Carbon Sinks trhrough Ground-Penetrating Radar. Final Report

Coarse roots play a significant role in belowground carbon cycling and will likely play an increasingly crucial role in belowground carbon sequestration as atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, yet they are one of the most difficult ecosystem parameters to quantify. Despite promising results with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) as a nondestructive method of quantifying biomass of coarse roots, this application of GPR is in its infancy and neither the complete potential nor limitations of the technology have been fully evaluated. The primary goals and questions of this study fell into four groups: (1) GPR methods: Can GPR detect change in root biomass over time, differentiate live roots from dead roots, differentiate between coarse roots, fine roots bundled together, and a fine root mat, remain effective with varied soil moisture, and detect shadowed roots (roots hidden below larger roots); (2) CO2 enrichment study at Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida: Are there post-fire legacy effects of CO2 fertilization on plant carbon pools following the end of CO2application ? (3) Disney Wilderness Study: What is the overall coarse root biomass and potential for belowground carbon storage in a restored longleaf pine flatwoods system? Can GPR effectively quantify coarse roots in soilsmore » that are wetter than the previous sites and that have a high percentage of saw palmetto rhizomes present? (4) Can GPR accurately represent root architecture in a three-dimensional model? When the user is familiar with the equipment and software in a setting that minimizes unsuitable conditions, GPR is a relatively precise, non-destructive, useful tool for estimating coarse root biomass. However, there are a number of cautions and guidelines that should be followed to minimize inaccuracies or situations that are untenable for GPR use. GPR appears to be precise as it routinely predicts highly similar values for a given area across multiple scanning events; however, it appears to lack sufficient accuracy at small scales. Knowledge of soil conditions and their effects on GPR wave propagation and reception are paramount for the collection of useful data. Strong familiarity with the software and equipment is both important and necessary for GPR use in estimating coarse root biomass. GPR must be utilized at low soil moisture levels in order to accurately represent existing coarse root structures. Our results from Disney Wilderness Preserve highlight the need for a strong understanding of the limitations of GPR, specifically knowledge of root structures (saw palmetto rhizomes) or environmental factors (low moisture content) that may hinder its application within a given system. The 3D modeling of course roots with GPR appears quite promising, as it has become more accurate and precise as the software has advanced and become more robust, but there is still a need for more precision before it will likely be able to model anything more than simple root systems comprised mostly of large diameter roots. Our results from Kennedy Space Center suggest that there are legacy effects from CO2 fertilization in the form of more root mass providing a greater capacity for aboveground plant regrowth following fire, even 7 years after treatment ended.« less
  1. Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, VA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Norfolk, VA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES carbon; ground-penetrating radar; roots; carbon dioxide