Competitive ability of the bunchgrass Schizachyrium scoparium as affected by grazing history and defoliation
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Herbivory by large animals is known to function as a selection pressure to increase herbivory resistance within plant populations by decreasing the frequency of genotypes possessing large, erect canopies. However, the increase in herbivory resistance of the remaining genotypes in the population may potentially involve a tradeoff with competitive ability. The perennial bunchgrass Schizachyrium scoparium was grown in a transplant garden to test the hypothesis that late successional plant populations with a history of grazing are at a competitive disadvantage relative to conspecific populations with no history of grazing were found to possess a greater competitive ability than plants with no grazing history in the absence of herbivory. This unexpected response resulted from the capacity of plants with a history of grazing to recruit a greater number of smaller tillers than did plants with no grazing history. This response was only significant when plants with a history of grazing were nondefoliated and grown with the weakest of the mid-successional competitors, indicating that both defoliation and intense interspecific competition can mask the architectural expression of herbivore-induced selection. Individual tillers did not display any architectural differences between plants with contrasting grazing histories other than mean tiller weight. These data confirm that herbivory by domestic cattle may function as a selection pressure to induce architectural variation in grass populations within an ecological time frame (ca <-25 yrs). © 1992 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
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Briske, D. D., & Anderson, V. J
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