Coping with variability: Examples of tracer use in root function studies
Spatial and temporal variability is an inevitable element in most field ecological studies. Belowground, this temporal variability and spatial patchiness is also to be expected, even though it may be less immediately apparent. Thus, assessment of root system phenomena such as production or nutrient uptake in the heterogeneous soil environment is a problem requiring intensive sampling combined with some manner of coping with the variability. Improved resolution from increased sample size often reaches a point of diminishing gains and unreasonable costs. Furthermore, practical constraints often limit the number of samples that can be taken. Use of tracers, such as radioactive isotopes, provides numerous advantages for nondestructively tracking some belowground processes. Because this can be done nondestructively, the same plants or plots can be followed through time which reduces the variability in the determinations. This chapter will portray two examples of the use of tracers in root system function research and discuss these in relation to alternative approaches.
KeywordsRoot Biomass Root Production Indicator Plant Radioactive Phosphate Agropyron Desertorum
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