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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Construction and Installation of Acrylic Minirhizotron Tubes in Forest Ecosystems


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 59 No. 1, p. 241-243
    Received: Feb 2, 1994

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. Brian D. Kloeppel  and
  2. Stith T. Gower
  1. Department of Forestry, Univ. of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706



Glass tubing has been the traditional material used when constructing minirhizotrons for studying fine root dynamics in managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems. However, we have found that rocky soils, swelling smectite clays, large structural roots, and freezing soils frequently have broken glass minirhizotrons. We have developed a system to construct and install durable acrylic minirhizotrons. Acrylic tubing costs 42% less than glass and requires only 13% of the preparation time, resulting in a 121% savings vs. glass. The major time-saving device is a unique spring-loaded etching trough that places accurate, evenly spaced circles along the length of the tube in minutes. The design can be easily modified for many applications. Preliminary results in a mixed western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.)-lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm.) forest in western Montana indicate that the acrylic minirhizotrons are durable, the etching is visible, and the system can be used to examine fine root phenology.

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