Measuring fine root production in the Mekong Delta

Marie Arnaud, PhD student at the School of Geography and 2017 SPRING competition winner, has developed EnRoot minirhizotron, an inexpensive, easy to build and partially 3D printable minirhizotron that offer a non-destructive alternative to quantify fine root production of mangroves which is considered amongst the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world.

Marie believes that a major input of organic carbon into mangrove soil is from fine roots. This inspired Marie to develop a minirhizotron tool that would not just measure fine root growth but also enable high-frequency in situ monitoring with little disturbance after an initial settling period.

EnRoot is light, waterproof and utilises a narrow minirhizotron tube that can fit between stilt-roots of mangrove. This allows the user to observe root growth over time and trace single roots in the course of their development. A significant advantage of this tool is that it costs around ten times less than commercial minirhizotron. This is particularly helpful as measurement techniques for fine root production are expensive, time consuming, and often destructive. Marie explains, “The roots are the hidden part of the mangrove carbon stock, with EnRoot  we can now explore this stock with accuracy.”

With the help of Enroot, Marie collected the first detailed data on patterns of root production in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) which is considered the second largest rehabilitated mangrove forest in the world. Her study aims to guide mangrove restoration and protection efforts both in the Mekong and beyond. Moreover, the results will not just help improve a better understanding of mangrove root systems but also provide valuable data that are likely to help modeller to predict the impact of climate change on Mangrove and their carbon stock.

Fine roots of mangrove trees captured by Enroot

If you wish to know more about Enroot and Marie Arnaud’s project in Vietnam, please contact Marie Arnaud