• Clubmoss effects on plant water status and standing crop

      Colberg, T. J.; Romo, J. T. (Society for Range Management, 2003-09-01)
      Clubmoss (Selaginella densa Rydb.), a low growing, vascular cryptogam forms carpet-like mats that cover up to 80% of the ground in the Northern Mixed Prairie. Many range managers believe clubmoss competes with grasses for water or intercepts precipitation and negatively affects plant water relations and productivity. The objective of these studies was to test the hypothesis that precipitation has greater effects on leaf xylem water potentials (Leafxwp) and plant productivity than clubmoss. Studies examined the effects of clubmoss on Leafxwp of Junegrass (Koeleria cristata Pers.) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [HBK.] Lag.), and productivity of forbs and graminoids by: 1) irrigating or reducing precipitation relative to natural precipitation; 2) removing clubmoss relative to clubmoss present, and; 3) irrigating with 0.0 to 25 mm of water when clubmoss was present or removed. Leafxwp of Junegrass and blue grama were unaffected by clubmoss through the growing season (P = 0.33), but Leafxwp were lowest (P or = 0.05) when precipitation was reduced relative to the control and when irrigating. Standing crop of forbs was similar in the control and clubmoss removal treatment (P = 0.22) and among precipitation treatments (P = 0.13), averaging 28 g m-2 (SE = 2.2). Graminoid standing crop was unaffected by clubmoss (P = 0.35) and was greatest (P = 0.02) when irrigated (74 g m-2), intermediate in the control (53 g m-2), and least (36 g m-2) with reduced precipitation (SE = 8.7). Clubmoss did not affect (P = 0.70) total standing crop; total standing crop declined from 102 g m-2 when irrigated to 76 g m-2 in the control, and 69 g m-2 (SE = 9.0) with reduced precipitation. Clubmoss had no influence (P = 0.06) on Leafxwp when irrigated with 0 to 25 mm of water. The decline in Leafxwp from 1 to 7 days after irrigation was the product of the interacting effects of the amount of water applied and days after irrigation (P = 0.03). More than 10 mm of irrigation water were required to impart a significant increase (P < 0.05) in Leafxwp. The hypothesis that clubmoss reduces productivity of associated plants in the Northern Mixed Prairie by increasing water stress is rejected. Similarly clubmoss does not reduce plant water stress or increase production. Precipitation amounts overshadow any effects clubmoss has on Leafxwp and plant production. Range managers in the Northern Mixed Prairie may want to consider maximizing the effectiveness of precipitation in this water-limited environment instead of focusing on reducing or attempting to eliminate clubmoss.