Plants use their fine roots and rhizomorphs for transporting nutrients and water at the soil-root interface. Rhizomorphs are strand-like entities made of fungal hyphae that grow on fine roots of plants. Together, the fine roots and rhizomorphs account for a large percentage of annual net primary productivity, however the mystery lies behind their respiration processes.
To help gain a better understanding, Vargas & Allen (2008) used non-destructive sampling methods (minirhizotron images, carbon-14 dating, and non-dispersive infrared CO2 sensors) to determine whether short-term changes in fine root and rhizomorph lengths affected soil respiration rates.
Fine root length and respiration were found to be correlated, with as much as 4,690 grams of carbon produced per hectare per day. Short-term variation in fine root and rhizomorph lengths was successfully observed using minirhizotron images; however the authors note that coupling their minirhizotron images with multiple sensor arrays to collect data on important environmental factors was key for understanding belowground carbon dynamics.
Vargas & Allen (2008), “Dynamics of fine root, fungal rhizomorphs and soil respiration in a mixed temperate forest: integrating sensors and observations”