The University of Arizona

Drought and grazing III: root dynamics and germinable seed bank.

A.L. Hild, M.G. Karl, M.R. Haferkamp, R.K. Heitschmidt


Drought and herbivory frequently influence North American rangelands. While these influences may temporarily reduce vegetative cover, their mutual influence on the available seedbanks which might occupy new safe sites is unclear. We examine effects of drought and grazing upon pre- and post-drought plant root distribution and germinable seed bank to determine 1) if the response of root distributions to drought depends upon grazing use and 2) if the presence of germinable seeds is altered significantly by drought and grazing. Using twelve, 5 X 10 m non-weighing lysimeters with an automated rainout shelter, we documented root intercepts in situ using a minirhizotron from 1993-1996. Seed bank samples were incubated in a greenhouse to determine seedling emergence. Roots were fewer in shallow soil layers in grazed plots than ungrazed plots by the end of the study, irrespective of drought. Roots in deeper (Bw horizon) soil layers were fewer during drought, but were not influenced by grazing. Seed bank composition results suggest that perennial grasses were a small portion of the seed bank. Cool-season annual grass seeds accumulated after drought. Without drought, forb seed banks increased with grazing. Thus while shallow roots may decrease during drought, in the year following drought grazing may decrease aboveground net primary production, and allow large accumulations of cool-season annual grass seed in a northern mixed grass prairie.



rooting depth;plant development;soil depth;seed banks;roots;seedling emergence;plant communities;seed germination;drought;Montana;rangelands;browsing;grazing;water stress

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