Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2007

Capstone Advisor

Dr. Douglas Frank

Honors Reader

Dr. Jason Fridley

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Sciences and Engineering

Subject Categories



Few investigations have been conducted on belowground plant consumption and production due to the difficulty of examining root systems over time without significant disturbance. In most field studies, roots are sampled monthly, a time interval that cannot capture the rapid growth and death of fine roots. The purpose of this study was to estimate rates of root production (growth) and consumption in an upland grassland inYellowstoneNational Park. Root lengths were digitized in four minirhizotron tubes, four times per month (at three-day intervals over ten days) from May - September 2005. I attributed root length that disappeared over each three-day period as primarily due to root herbivory, because previously published estimates of fine root decomposition would suggest much slower rates of root disappearance than what we observed. Average production per day (mm of root length) was approximately five times greater in May and June, compared to July, August, and September. Average daily consumption was not significantly different among months and was approximately 0.8% of the total root length. Temporal and spatial (depth) fluctuations in the rates of production were likely related to aboveground primary production and rates of consumption were related to seasonal variations in soil moisture content and soil microfauna populations. A comparison of rates of consumption and production derived from sampling at three-day and one-month intervals revealed that month-to-month sampling underestimated total seasonal consumption and production by approximately 60% relative to three-day estimates. This study highlights the often overlooked importance of root herbivory in grassland communities and the need for sampling roots at intervals short enough to match the temporal scale of root dynamics.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Included in

Biology Commons



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