Forestry applications of ground-penetrating radar

H. Lorenzo, V. Pérez-Gracia, A. Novo, J. Armesto


Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is a geophysical and close-range remote sensing technique based on the use of radar pulses to obtain cross-section images of underground features. This method is characterized by the transmission of an electromagnetic short length pulse (1-2 ns), presenting a centre frequency ranging from 10 MHz to 2.5 GHz. The principles of GPR operation are based on the ability of low frequency radar waves to penetrate into a non-conductive medium, usually subsoil, but also walls, concrete or wood. Those waves are detected after suffering a reflection in electromagnetic discontinuities of the propagation medium. Therefore, this is a suitable method to study changes in those physical properties, and also to characterize different mediums and the reflective targets providing information about their physical properties. The aim of this work is to describe and demonstrate different applications of GPR in forestry, showing the obtained results together with their interpretation. Firstly, in this paper, it is illustrated how GPR is able to map shallow bedrock, subsoil stratigraphy and also to estimate shallow watertable depth. Secondly, different tree trunks as well as dry timber are analyzed, evaluating the different radar data obtained in each particular case, and observing differences in their electromagnetic properties related to the GPR response. Finally, several measurements were taken in order to analyze the use of GPR to detect tree root systems using polarimetric techniques, being possible to detect medium and big size roots, together with groups of small roots.


GPR; remote sensing; bedrock: watertable; trunk; root system

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2010191-01163