, Volume 331, Issue 1-2, pp 1-3
Date: 17 Feb 2010

Peering belowground with increasing clarity: elucidating belowground processes with cutting-edge tools

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Ecologists have been making in situ observations of the dynamics of aboveground plant organs and interactions for centuries (Harper 1977). It was not until the construction of belowground glass-paneled soil observation laboratories or “rhizotrons” (Rogers 1933) and similar portable devices or “minirhizotrons” (Bates 1937) in the 1930’s, however, that scientists began to make repeated in situ observations of the same individual fine roots in the field along with animal and fungal interactions with plant roots (reviewed by Lussenhop and Fogel 1993; Taylor et al. 1990). Only in the last two decades have studies using those methods begun to accrue in significant numbers: The ISI Web of Science database contains only four publications from 1981 to 1989 that use the keyword “minirhizotron” while it contains more than 290 such studies from 1990 to 2009. Such numbers do not suggest that data on dynamics of belowground plant parts and their biotic interactions have yet caught up to those accumu ...

Responsible Editor: Erik A. Hobbie.