Feasibility of using ground-penetrating radar to quantify root mass in Florida's intensively managed pine plantations
Tree root systems are commonly evaluated via labor intensive, destructive, time-consuming excavations. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) can be used to detect and monitor roots if there is sufficient electromagnetic contrast with the surrounding soil matrix. This methodology is commonly used in civil engineering for non-destructive testing of concrete as well as road and bridge surfaces. This technology is ideal for these applications since the electrical properties of concrete and rebar (steel) are very different. Under amenable conditions (i.e. electrically resistive, sandy soils) tree roots are detectable and can be quantified. Ground penetrating radar has been used to resolve roots and buried organic debris, assess root size, map root distribution, and estimate root biomass (Butnor et al., 2001). Being noninvasive and nondestructive, GPR allows repeated measurements that facilitate the study of root system development. Root biomass studies provide insight into the effectiveness of various irrigation and fertilizer amendments and are an indicator of tree health.