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The implementation of near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to determine the mass and distribution of fine roots in forest soils

concluded 03/2006

Summary

Fine roots are of great significance in the investigation of the interactions between soil and plants, as well as the below ground carbon and nutrient cycles. In the past, these investigations were based on the analysis of fine roots either collected together with soil in cores and subsequently analysed in the lab, on profile methods or on the observation of fine roots using (mini) rhizotrones. The last two methods are limited in their application and cannot accommodate large sample numbers. In the case of soil cores, the fine roots must first be separated from the soil, before they are sorted according to species, vitality or diameter. This method is very time and labour intensive. The high degree of spatial and temporal variation of fine root parameters demands a high number of samples if reliable data are to be obtained. The aim of the proposed project is to test whether near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) can be applied as a means of differentiating between and quantifying the fine roots of various species, distinguishing between living and dead roots, as well as root and soil matter on the basis of their spectral characteristics. Were this method to prove successful, it would no longer be necessary to engage in time consuming tasks such as the sorting of roots or the separation of soil from the roots. This simplification has the potential to greatly further our understanding of the dynamics of the below ground ecosystem. The NIRS method for the identification of fine roots is to be tested for important commercial species and for a spectrum of sites which vary in their chemical and physical properties.

Project partners: Institute of Silviculture of the University of Freiburg, Institut für Bodenkunde und Waldernährung of the University of Göttingen
Sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Researcher: Dr. Partap Khanna
Timeframe: Sept. 2004 – Sept. 2005
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