Applications of minirhizotrons to understand root function in forests and other natural ecosystems
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Minirhizotrons have proved useful to understand the dynamics and function of fine roots. However, they have been used comparatively infrequently in forests and other natural plant communities. Several factors have contributed to this situation, including anomalous root distributions along the minirhizotron surface and the difficulty of extracting data from minirhizotron images. Technical and methodological advances have ameliorated some of these difficulties, and minirhizotrons have considerable potential to address some questions of long standing interest. These questions include more fully understanding the role of roots in carbon and nutrient cycling, rates of root decomposition, responses to resource availability and the functional significance of interactions between plant roots and soil organisms. Maximizing the potential for minirhizotrons to help us better understand the functional importance of fine roots in natural plant communities depends upon using them to answer only those questions appropriate to both their inherent strengths and limitations.
Key wordsdecomposition minirhizotron production soil biota turnover
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