Abstract To measure the contribution of root respiration (Rr) to total soil respiration (Rt) in arid cotton fields, eighteen plots, nine for girdling and nine control, were built in an arid cotton field in the Aksu National Experimental Station of Oasis Farmland Ecosystem, Xinjiang of China. Given the difference of soil respiration between girdled plots and non-girdled control plots, the components of soil respiration, root respiration (Rr) and respiration originating from decomposition (Rd) were divided. The temperature sensitivities of Rr and Rd were analyzed, respectively. The results showed that the average contribution of Rr to Rt in arid cotton field was about 32% during the study period. The temperature-response curve of Rr differed from that of Rd. The dynamic variation of Rd was more related to the change of soil temperature as compared to Rr. Rr and Rd had different responses to the variation of environment, and thus new models capable of differentiating between Rr and Rd are needed for evaluating the different factors controlling these two components of soil respiration in arid cotton field.