Plant and Soil

, Volume 352, Issue 1–2, pp 23–39 | Cite as

Advancing the use of minirhizotrons in wetlands

  • C. M. IversenEmail author
  • M. T. Murphy
  • M. F. Allen
  • J. Childs
  • D. M. Eissenstat
  • E. A. Lilleskov
  • T. M. Sarjala
  • V. L. Sloan
  • P. F. Sullivan
Review Article



Wetlands store a substantial amount of carbon (C) in deep soil organic matter deposits, and play an important role in global fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane. Fine roots (i.e., ephemeral roots that are active in water and nutrient uptake) are recognized as important components of biogeochemical cycles in nutrient-limited wetland ecosystems. However, quantification of fine-root dynamics in wetlands has generally been limited to destructive approaches, possibly because of methodological difficulties associated with the unique environmental, soil, and plant community characteristics of these systems. Non-destructive minirhizotron technology has rarely been used in wetland ecosystems.


Our goal was to develop a consensus on, and a methodological framework for, the appropriate installation and use of minirhizotron technology in wetland ecosystems. Here, we discuss a number of potential solutions for the challenges associated with the deployment of minirhizotron technology in wetlands, including minirhizotron installation and anchorage, capture and analysis of minirhizotron images, and upscaling of minirhizotron data for analysis of biogeochemical pools and parameterization of land surface models.


The appropriate use of minirhizotron technology to examine relatively understudied fine-root dynamics in wetlands will advance our knowledge of ecosystem C and nutrient cycling in these globally important ecosystems.


Fine roots Minirhizotron Wetlands Peatlands Methodology 



This paper was developed from a workshop held at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in October, 2010 to facilitate discussion on minirhizotron use to examine fine-root dynamics in wetlands. The authors do not have a financial interest in the commercial products discussed here. We thank the New Phytologist Trust and the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research for sponsoring the workshop. We also thank R. Norby and anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. M. Iversen
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. T. Murphy
    • 2
  • M. F. Allen
    • 3
  • J. Childs
    • 1
  • D. M. Eissenstat
    • 4
  • E. A. Lilleskov
    • 5
  • T. M. Sarjala
    • 6
  • V. L. Sloan
    • 7
  • P. F. Sullivan
    • 8
    • 9
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Center for Conservation BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA
  4. 4.Department of HorticulturePennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  5. 5.Northern Research StationUSDA Forest ServiceHoughtonUSA
  6. 6.Finnish Forest Research InstituteParkanoFinland
  7. 7.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  8. 8.Environment and Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  9. 9.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA

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