The population biology of Bromus tectorum in forests: distinguishing the opportunity for dispersal from environmental restriction. Academic Article uri icon


  • With increasing elevation and corresponding changes in the macroclimate, forest zones in the Intermountain Region of western North America are often dominated in turn by Pinus ponderosa, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Abies grandis, an Thuja plicata. Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), and introduced annual grass now abundant in the Region's steppe, is uncommon in mature stands representative of these forest zones. In order to determine whether B. tectorum is largely excluded from these forests by insufficient seed dispersal or environmental restriction(s), the grass's demography was compared in each of four years among populations experimentally-introduced into mature forests. The number of recruits did not differ among the Pinus, Pseudotsuga, and Abies sites; recruitment was however significantly lower on the coolest site dominated by Thuja. Emergence in both the low elevation Pinus and Pseudotsuga sites was about the same in autumn, winter, and spring. In the cooler, moister Abies and Thuja sites, emergence was limited to autumn and early winter. Survival in these forest sites ranged between 0 and 87%. The percentage of the total population to survive until harvest was highest in the Pseudotsuga site, intermediate in the Pinus and Abies sites, and lowest in the Thuja site. Compared with B. tectorum in the steppe, the surviving plants were small, and few produced seeds. All parents were members of either the autumn or winter cohort, and most parents produced only one seed. No seeds were produced at the Thuja site. Although phenotypic plasticity apparently contributes to the wide ecological amplitude of this grass, its growing season on these sites in most years is too short for it to reproduce. Consequently, these forest zones broadly define the current environmental limits to the distribution of cheatgrass in this portion of its new geographic range.

published proceedings

  • Oecologia

author list (cited authors)

  • Pierson, E. A., & Mack, R. N.

citation count

  • 47

complete list of authors

  • Pierson, Elizabeth A||Mack, Richard N

publication date

  • October 1990