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Incorporating 2D tree-ring data in 3D laser scans of coarse-root systems


In times of global change biomass calculations and the carbon cycle is gaining in importance. Forests act as carbon sinks and hence, play a crucial role in worlds and forests carbon budgets. Unfortunately, growth models and biomass calculations existing so far mainly concentrate on the above-ground part of trees. For this reason, the aim of the present study is to develop an annually resolved 3D growth model for tree roots, which allows for reliable biomass calculations and can later be combined with above-ground models. A FARO scan arm was used to measure the surface of a tree-root segment. In addition, ring-width measurements were performed manually on sampled cross sections using WinDENDRO. The main goal of this study is to model root growth on an annual scale by combining these data sets. In particular, a laser scan arm was tested as a device for the realistic reproduction of tree-root architecture, although the first evaluation has been performed for a root segment rather than for an entire root system. Deviations in volume calculations differed between 5% and 7% from the actual volume and varied depending on the used modeling technique. The model with the smallest deviations represented the structure of the root segment in a realistic way and distances and diameter of cross sections were acceptable approximations of the real values. However, the volume calculations varied depending on object complexity, modeling technique and order of modeling steps. In addition, it was possible to merge tree-ring borders as coordinates into the surface model and receive age information in connection with the spatial allocation. The scan arm was evaluated as an innovative and applicable device with high potential for root modeling. Nevertheless, there are still many problems connected with the scanning technique which have an influence on the accuracy of the model but are expected to improve with technical progress.

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The authors wish to thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) for funding the project (No.: 200021-113450). Furthermore, the authors are grateful to Dr. Ingo Heinrich for helpful comments on the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bettina Wagner.

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Responsible Editor: Alexia Stokes.

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Wagner, B., Gärtner, H., Ingensand, H. et al. Incorporating 2D tree-ring data in 3D laser scans of coarse-root systems. Plant Soil 334, 175–187 (2010).

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  • Laser scanning
  • Tree roots
  • Root modeling
  • Biomass
  • Tree rings