Browse by Subject
Contact Information

Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Clean Air and Water


Research Issue

[image:] Exterior view of Rhizotron entrance.Forest management to date has been based on a better understanding of aboveground than belowground processes, and as a result, the important functions of forest soils are frequently overlooked. Tree roots and other life in forest soils are essential for healthy and productive forests and provide valuable ecosystem services, including supplying water and nutrients to trees; providing structure to support trees and prevent soil erosion; purifying surface and groundwater; sequestering carbon from the atmosphere; and serving as habitat for a variety of soil organisms.

Our Research

The Rhizotron is a major tool in helping to improve the understanding of belowground forest processes. Located at the Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Houghton, MI, the facility is an underground tunnel containing 24 windows that look out into regional forest soils. As one of only two of its kind located in a northern forest ecosystem, it provides researchers the ability to observe and monitor belowground ecological processes, including activities that occur in the chemically active zone near roots, without causing disturbance to the soil or soil organisms.

Expected Outcomes

The Rhizotron enables Northern Research Station scientists and collaborators to better understand the environmental controls and management impacts on belowground processes by providing a research facility that enables repeated, non-destructive access to forest soil as it really is in nature. The facility allows for research on a broad-range of topics, such as carbon cycling in northern forests, rates of root growth and death, and the interrelationships of soil organisms.

Research Results

Rhizotron Website

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

Research Partners

Last Modified: 04/11/2011

Featured Product

Interior view of rhizotron in Houghton, MichiganThe Houghton Rhizotron is an underground facility with 24 windows looking out into northern forest soils...

Related Research
[photo:] Bin used to study small-scale ecosystems  in mesocosmThe Mesocosm facility in Houghton, Michigan enables research on replicated small-scale ecosystems.