Despite their critical role in every terrestrial ecosystem, fine root production and mortality have not been widely compared among systems due to the practical difficulties of belowground research. We examined fine root production and mortality among five contrasting sites: native and invaded grassland in eastern Montana, USA, aspen forest in southern Saskatchewan, Canada, and birch forest and tundra in northern Sweden. Additionally, we investigated the importance of minirhizotron sampling interval on measures of root production and mortality by comparing measures produced from 1-, 7-, 14-, and 21-day sample intervals. Root length and mortality varied significantly among sites, with invaded grassland having the greatest root length (>2 × than any other site) and significantly greater root mortality than native grassland (54 %). In contrast, there were no significant differences in root production among the sites. Sample interval had no significant influence on root production or mortality. Minirhizotron sampling intervals up to 3 weeks did not underestimate the measures of root production and mortality in comparison to measures derived from shorter sampling intervals, regardless of the site studied. The results suggest that 3 weeks can be an accurate and efficient sample interval when studying root production and mortality with minirhizotrons.
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We thank D. Sandbeck and S. Träger for practical help, Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Abisko Scientific Research Station for access and logistical support, reviewers for helpful suggestions, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for funding.
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