Modeling tree root diameter and biomass by ground-penetrating radar

Xi Hong Cui, Jin Chen, Jin Song Shen, Xin Cao, Xue Hong Chen, Xiaolin Zhu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Roots play a key role in ecosystem functioning as they transfer water and nutrients from soil to plants. Traditional methods for measuring roots are labor-intensive and destructive in nature, which limits quantitative and repeatable assessments in long-term research. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) provides a non-destructive method to measure plant roots. Based on the superiority of GPR with 2 GHz frequency, we developed a new, practical method to estimate root biomass. First, average root matter density was measured by collecting a small number of root samples. Second, under controlled, experimental conditions in a sandy area, a root diameter estimation model base on GPR was developed from which root diameter was estimated. Third, root volume was calculated using the estimated root diameter and assuming the shape of roots to be cylindrical. Finally, root biomass was estimated by averaging root matter density and root volume. Results of this study suggest the following: (1) the density of coarse roots with diameters greater than 0.5 cm is relatively uniform; (2) a new wave shape parameter, ΔT, extracted from profile data of 2 GHz frequency antenna is independent of root depth, thus enabling the construction of a root diameter estimation model with high accuracy; and (3) results of a field experiment demonstrated the GPR-based method to be feasible and effective in estimating biomass of coarse roots. These findings are helpful for improving GPR-based root diameter and biomass estimation models and suggest the potential of GPR data in studying root systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-719
Number of pages9
JournalScience China Earth Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ground-penetrating radar
  • root biomass
  • root diameter
  • tree root system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Modeling tree root diameter and biomass by ground-penetrating radar'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this