Plant and Soil

, Volume 272, Issue 1, pp 125–131

An in situ approach for measuring root-associated respiration and nitrate uptake of forest trees


DOI: 10.1007/s11104-004-4212-6

Cite this article as:
Fahey, T.J. & Yavitt, J.B. Plant Soil (2005) 272: 125. doi:10.1007/s11104-004-4212-6


The ecophysiological characteristics of fine roots of mature forest plants are poorly understood because of difficulties of measurement. We explored a root in-growth approach to measure respiration and nitrate uptake of woody plant roots in situ. Roots of seven species were grown into sand-filled chambers. Root-associated respiration was measured as CO 2 emission on four dates and nitrate uptake was quantified using 15N. All the roots were younger than 3 months at the time of measurement. Fine root respiration measured over the temperature range of 14.5–15.5 °C averaged 18.9–36.5 nmol gDM −1 s −1 across species. Nitrate uptake rates by these fine roots (1.3–6.8 nmol gDM −1 s −1) were comparable to other studies of forest trees. The root respiration rates were several times higher than measurements on detached roots of mature trees, concurring with literature observations that young roots respire much more rapidly than older roots. The root in-growth approach appears promising for providing information on the metabolic activity of fine roots of mature forest trees growing in soil.


fine root nitrate uptake respiration rhizosphere sugar maple white pine 

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA