, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 593–603 | Cite as

Estimating nutrient uptake by mature tree roots under field conditions: challenges and opportunities

  • Melissa S. Lucash
  • David M. Eissenstat
  • J. Devereux Joslin
  • Karis J. McFarlane
  • Ruth D. YanaiEmail author


Nutrient uptake by roots of mature trees is difficult to measure accurately under field conditions using existing methods. In this review, we discuss current techniques for measuring uptake at the root surface including excised roots, isotopic tracers, autoradiography, depletion, and lysimeters. Although these methods have provided many insights, each has drawbacks. Estimates of uptake are affected by the sampling scheme, experimental conditions, whether roots are excised or not, concentrations of ions, and the rate of efflux of ions. Microbes and mycorrhizas can also affect estimates of uptake. A greater focus on methods development is critical to advancing our understanding of nutrient uptake of mature trees under conditions representative of those in the field.


Efflux Excision Ion uptake Nutrient concentration Mycorrhizas 



We wish to thank Sarah Kulpa and Don Bickelhaupt for their technical assistance. Financial support was provided by the National Science Foundation through grants DEB-0087263 and 9211768.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa S. Lucash
    • 1
  • David M. Eissenstat
    • 2
  • J. Devereux Joslin
    • 3
  • Karis J. McFarlane
    • 4
  • Ruth D. Yanai
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Forest and Natural ResourcesState University of New York College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of HorticulturePennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Belowground Forest ResearchPuntarenasCosta Rica
  4. 4.Department of Forest EngineeringOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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