Fine-root responses to waterlogging

Can roots stand the rain?

Trees in many regions, especially urban settings, experience frequent flooding events. During and after heavy rainfall, the soil can become saturated with water (i.e. waterlogged). This leads to low oxygen levels in the soil. Roots need oxygen to “breathe,” just like us. So you can imagine that these conditions present many problems to trees. Metabolism, growth, water flow, and filtration of toxic compounds are just a few of the main plant functions impacted by waterlogged soils.

Using a root-lab invention coined the “rhizo-pot” we will be able to view the root systems of two maple species and two magnolia species through clear windows. In addition to tracing the roots, we will also be taking images, photosynthesis measurements, and running tissue analysis to get an idea of what is going on inside of the tree. How does root response influence tree survival and recovery from flooding events? Do roots have specific strategies to deal with flooding? Uncovering the answers to the above questions is critical to understanding what is going on belowground. In the coming years, flooding events are projected to increase in frequency and magnitude in many regions (Christensen et al. 2007). We can begin to address this issue before we are in too deep! 

Can I interest you in a fun challenge? Try reading the blurry poster seen below. If you found yourself successful, then congratulations, you have great eyesight!