Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Tracey L. Crocker; Ron L. Hendrick; Roger W. Ruess; Kurt S. Pregitzer; Andrew J. Burton; Michael F. Allen; Jianping Shan; Lawrence A. Morris
    Date: 2003
    Source: Applied Soil Ecology 23: 127-135
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (558 KB)


    Minirhizotrons provide a unique way to repeatedly measure the production and fate of individual root segments, while minimizing soil disturbance and the confounding of spatial-temporal variation. However, the time associated with processing videotaped minirhizotron images limits the amount of data that can be extracted in a reasonable amount of time. We found that this limitation can be minimized using a more easily measured variable r(i.e. root numbers) as a substitute of root length. Linear regression models were fitted between root length versus root number for production and mortality of seven sample datasets of varying tree species and treatments. The resulting r2 values ranged from 0.79 to 0.99, suggesting that changes in root numbers can be used to predict root length dynamics reliably. Slope values, representing the mean root segment length (MRSL), ranged from 2.34 to 8.38 mm per root segment for both production and mortality. Most treatments did not alter MRSL substantially, the exceptions being C02 treatments and a girdling treatment that altered plant community composition and, consequently, root morphology. The high r2 values demonstrated a robust relationship between variables irrespective of species or treatments. Once the quantitative relationship between root lengths and numbers has been established for a particular species-treatment combination, quantifying changes in root number through time should substantially decrease the time required to quantify root dynamics.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Crocker, Tracey L.; Hendrick, Ron L.; Ruess, Roger W.; Pregitzer, Kurt S.; Burton, Andrew J.; Allen, Michael F.; Shan, Jianping; Morris, Lawrence A. 2003. Substituting root numbers for length: Improving the use of minirhizotrons to study fine root dynamics. Applied Soil Ecology 23: 127-135


    Fine roots, minirhizotrons, mortality, production

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page