Root Ecology Group

Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Land Use


Root Ecology Group focuses on belowground processes in different ecosystems. The group investigates how biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nutrients, and water is influenced by climate, nutrient availability, water, and anthropogenic disturbance regimes. The ongoing research projects involve basic analyses of plant root traits, root-rhizobiome interactions and dynamics, and measurements of belowground biomass, production, and turnover for quantifying pools and fluxes of carbon and nutrients in the soil.

In the light of climate change we investigate the impact of potential asynchrony in above- and belowground phenology of plants and its effects on root- rhizobiome functioning, belowground nutrient cycles, and the implications on ecosystem carbon budget, both on short and long timescales. We explore scales ranging from microbial communities to the whole ecosystem and we invoke tools from a wide range of disciplines, including ecosystem ecology, ecophysiology, microbial ecology, and soil science. We implement machine learning tools for studying plant root growth dynamics in real time, and we also developing innovative solutions and novel methodologies in the field of belowground research.

Team is led by Professor Ivika Ostonen-Märtin.

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In FutureScapes, the RootEco research group will be responsible for:

  • Quantifying ecosystems (ES) carbon budgets, particularly belowground carbon pools and fluxes in different ES along environmental and management gradients.
  • Measuring and analyzing belowground processes on annual, decadal and centennial timescales.
  • Conceptualizing carbon and biodiversity linkages and determining critical thresholds for different ES-s and trophic levels.

A novel approach to be applied in the evaluation of belowground biomass production and growth dynamic is a deep learning-based automated minirhizotron ultra HD image analysis where the team has excellent expertise enables estimating plant root related carbon fluxes attributable to the biggest uncertainties in the ES carbon cycle (IPCC 2021). Root related metabolite’s and soil enzyme’s will be measured with a microdialysis system that enables to quantify root rhizosphere carbon fluxes at the molecular level that drive the whole food-web diversity and nutrient cycles in soil.

Research and development institution



Ministry of Education and Research

Ministry of Education and Research

Estonian Research Council

Estonian Research Council