Abstract - Defoliation Responses of Western Wheatgrass Populations with Diverse Histories of Prairie Dog Grazing

Detling, J.K. and Painter, E.L.. 1983. Defoliation responses of western wheatgrass populations with diverse histories of prairie dog grazing. Oecologia 57. pp. 65-71.


Photosynthesis and regrowth were compared over a 10-day period following defoliation of about 75% of the tillers of western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) plants collected from a black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) town and a grazing exclosure at Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. Prior to defoliation, dog town plants had more tillers, but fewer leaves per tiller, shorter and narrower leaf blades, more horizontal leaves, and higher leaf blade/leaf sheath ratios than plants from the grazing exclosure. Rates of net photosynthesis did not differ significantly among plants of the two population, either prior to or following defoliation. From Days 2-10 following defoliation, photosynthesis of remaining undamaged leaves averaged 104% of predefoliationrates while photosynthesis of similar leaves on non-defoliated plants declined steadily with time, averaging only 79% predefoliation rates during this period. Following defoliation, transpiration rates followed similar trends to carbon dioxide exchange, and rates did not differ between plants of the two populations. Absolute rates of leaf elongation and shoot production were greater in plants from the exclosure. However, defoliation of plants from the exclosure population resulted in a 20% reduction in their cumulative shoot dry weight, whild cumulative shoot dry weight of plants from the prairie dog town was not significantly affected by defoliation. This apparent ability of plants from the prairie dog town population to withstand defoliation better than plants from the exclosure was attributed to factors such as the higher leaf blade/leaf sheath ratio and more horizontal leaf angles of plants from the former populations.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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