The University of Arizona

Defoliation, waterlogging and dung influences allocation patterns of Deschampsia caespitosa.

E.H. Merrill, P.J.S. Colberg


Wet meadows are some of the most productive communities in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA but are also among the most sensitive to grazing by native ungulates and domestic livestock. These meadows typically are inundated with floodwater in spring and early summer but are relatively dry in summer. To determine the interactive effects of clipping and flooding on plant recovery after clipping, we subjected plants of tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa (L.) Beauv) to 6-week and 10-week waterlogging treatments in combination with 1 and 2 clipping events, with and without dung amendment in a greenhouse experiment. The experiment was designed to mimic early and late growing-season patterns of herbivory by native and domestic herbivores on a dominant species of wet meadows of this region. Waterlogged plants produced a higher percentage of roots at the surface, elongated stems to the first axial leaf, increased the proportion of tillers that flowered, but increased aboveground yield and tiller height only with the addition of dung. Root biomass declined with waterlogging when dung was not added, and a second defoliation exacerbated the negative effects of waterlogging on roots. Defoliation with short-duration waterlogging increased shoot nitrogen (N) concentration and N yield/root biomass, while continuous waterlogging reduced shoot N concentration of aboveground biomass. Dung amendment did not reverse this effect. Although extended flooding in combination with moderate rates of defoliation did not reduce aboveground biomass of Deschampsia caespitosa, it aggravated total root loss, caused shifts to a shallower root distribution, and altered N concentration of aboveground biomass for herbivores.



wet environmental conditions;flooded conditions;permanent grasslands;plant growth;tillers;Wyoming;biomass

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