The University of Arizona

Gas exchange of Idaho fescue in response to defoliation and grazing history.

P.S. Doescher, T.J. Svejcar, R.G. Jaindl


We tested the hypothesis that prior grazing history would influence the defoliation responses of Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) growing in a common garden environment. Plants were taken from a grazed pasture and adjacent exclosure which had not been grazed since 1937, and established in a common garden at 1 m spacings during spring of 1989. Plants from defoliated and nondefoliated treatments within the 2 populations were sampled during 1992 and 1993. Photosynthesis, conductance to H2O, and xylem potentials were measured during the 2 growing seasons, and carbon isotope ratio (delta 13C) was measured for senescent leaf tissue. Both within exclosure and outside exclosure defoliated plants exhibited compensatory photosynthesis that averaged a 12% increase the first year, and a 52% increase during the second year, compared with nondefoliated plants. No differences in photosynthesis occurred between the 2 collections. However, outside exclosure plants had higher stomatal conductance than did exclosure plants for the dry year 1992. Also, outside exclosure plants exhibited more negative delta 13C (thus lower water use efficiency) than exclosure plants for 1992 and 1993. We suggest that the higher conductance of previously-grazed plants relative to nongrazed plant populations may be an adaptive response to greater soil moisture often found in grazed sites.


Festuca idahoensis;stomata;transpiration;photosynthesis;gas exchange;xylem water potential;defoliation;grazing

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