Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 711–719 | Cite as

Modeling tree root diameter and biomass by ground-penetrating radar

  • XiHong Cui
  • Jin Chen
  • JinSong Shen
  • Xin Cao
  • XueHong Chen
  • XiaoLin Zhu
Research Paper


Roots play a key role in ecosystem functioning as they transfer water and nutrients from soil to plants. Traditional methods for measuring roots are labor-intensive and destructive in nature, which limits quantitative and repeatable assessments in long-term research. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) provides a non-destructive method to measure plant roots. Based on the superiority of GPR with 2 GHz frequency, we developed a new, practical method to estimate root biomass. First, average root matter density was measured by collecting a small number of root samples. Second, under controlled, experimental conditions in a sandy area, a root diameter estimation model base on GPR was developed from which root diameter was estimated. Third, root volume was calculated using the estimated root diameter and assuming the shape of roots to be cylindrical. Finally, root biomass was estimated by averaging root matter density and root volume. Results of this study suggest the following: (1) the density of coarse roots with diameters greater than 0.5 cm is relatively uniform; (2) a new wave shape parameter, ΔT, extracted from profile data of 2 GHz frequency antenna is independent of root depth, thus enabling the construction of a root diameter estimation model with high accuracy; and (3) results of a field experiment demonstrated the GPR-based method to be feasible and effective in estimating biomass of coarse roots. These findings are helpful for improving GPR-based root diameter and biomass estimation models and suggest the potential of GPR data in studying root systems.


ground-penetrating radar tree root system root biomass root diameter 


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • XiHong Cui
    • 1
  • Jin Chen
    • 1
  • JinSong Shen
    • 2
  • Xin Cao
    • 1
  • XueHong Chen
    • 1
  • XiaoLin Zhu
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource EcologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resource and ProspectingChina University of PetroleumBeijingChina

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