Estimating tree-root biomass in different depths using ground-penetrating radar: Evidence from a controlled experiment

Xihong Cui, Li Guo, Jin Chen, Xuehong Chen, Xiaolin Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Roots have important functions in the ecosystem. Therefore, establishing root-related parameters such as root size, biomass, and 3-D architecture is necessary. Traditional methods for measuring tree roots are labor intensive and destructive to nature, limiting quantitative and repeated assessments in long-term research. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) provides a nondestructive method for measuring tree roots. This study investigates the feasibility of a GPR system with 500-MHz, 900-MHz, and 2-GHz measurement frequencies for detecting tree roots and estimating root biomass under controlled experimental conditions in a sandy area. After energy attenuation correction and velocity analysis, not only the individual root in subsurface is able to be located but also the parameters that correlate well with root biomass can be extracted from the processed GPR data. The major findings were as follows. First, both the amplitude and amplitude-area indices were confirmed to be more effective for estimating root biomass after attenuation-effect compensation. This result suggests that the calibration of GPR wave-attenuation effects and velocity changes with depth are helpful in estimating root biomass from GPR parameters. Second, the selection of GPR system frequency was mainly dependent on field conditions, particularly soil water content. Lower frequency was recommended for developing root biomass estimation model under varied soil conditions. Third, the new method based on the metal reflector experiment was effective and easy to perform in situ for attenuation-effect correction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6392930
Pages (from-to)3410-3423
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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