Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/bg-2017-91
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Technical note
29 Mar 2017
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).
Application of geophysical tools for tree root studies in forest ecosystems in complex soils
Ulises Rodríguez-Robles1, Tulio Arredondo1, Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald1, José Alfredo Ramos-Leal2, and Enrico A. Yépez3 1División de Ciencias Ambientales, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, Camino a la Presa de San José # 2055, Lomas 4ta Sección, C.P. 78216 San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., México
2División de Geociencias Aplicadas, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, Camino a la Presa de San José # 2055, Lomas 4ta Sección, C.P. 78216 San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., México
3Departamento de Ciencias del Agua y Medio Ambiente, Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora, 5 de Febrero 818 Sur, Col. Centro, C.P. 8500 Ciudad Obregón, México
Abstract. While semiarid forests frequently colonize rocky substrates, knowledge is scarce on how roots garner resources in these extreme habitats. The Sierra San Miguelito Volcanic Complex in Central Mexico exhibits shallow soils and impermeable rhyolitic-rock outcrops, which impede water movement and root placement beyond the soil matrix. However, rock fractures, exfoliations, and soil pockets potentially permit downward percolation and root growth. With ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT), two geophysical methods advocated by Jayawickreme et al. (2014) to advance root ecology, we studied root and water distribution in shallow-rocky-soils and rock fractures in a semiarid forest. We calibrated geophysical images with in-situ root measurements, and then extrapolated root distribution over larger areas. With GPR, we identified fine and coarse pine and oak roots with 6 to 75 mm diameters at differential depths in soil and fractures; besides, trees anchored their trunks with coarse roots underneath rock outcroppings. With ETR, we tracked monthly changes in humidity at the soil/bedrock interface, which clearly explained spatial root distribution of both tree species. Geophysical methods have enormous potential in elucidating root ecology. More interdisciplinary research could advance our understanding in belowground ecological niche functions and their role in forest ecohydrology and productivity.

Citation: Rodríguez-Robles, U., Arredondo, T., Huber-Sannwald, E., Ramos-Leal, J. A., and Yépez, E. A.: Application of geophysical tools for tree root studies in forest ecosystems in complex soils, Biogeosciences Discuss., doi:10.5194/bg-2017-91, in review, 2017.
Ulises Rodríguez-Robles et al.
Ulises Rodríguez-Robles et al.
Ulises Rodríguez-Robles et al.

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The approach we present has the potential to contribute to the understanding of several types of plant interactions such as coexistence, competition, niche extent, etc. By combining geophysical exploration techniques GPR and ERT we provide experimental evidence of horizontal roots located under exfoliated rocks and in water reservoirs. Also, how the roots access water retained in the weathered rock during droughty periods and the implications for survival and coexistence of forest species.
The approach we present has the potential to contribute to the understanding of several types of...
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