Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 55, Number 1 (January 2002) by Subjects
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Drought and grazing: IV. Blue grama and western wheatgrassAn understanding of the impacts of grazing during and following drought on rangeland ecosystems is critical for developing effective drought management strategies. This study was designed to examine the effects of drought and grazing on blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K) Lag. ex Griffiths] and western wheatgrass [Pascopyrum smithii Rydb. (Love)] tiller growth dynamics. Research was conducted from 1993 to 1996 at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory located near Miles City, Mont. An automated rainout shelter was used during 1994 to impose a severe late spring to early fall (May to October) drought on 6 of twelve, 5- x 10-m non-weighing lysimeters. Twice replicated grazing treatments were: 1) grazed both the year of (1994) and the year after (1995) drought; 2) grazed the year of and rested the year after drought; and 3) no grazing either year. Drought had minimal impact on tiller relative growth rates of plants grazed twice, although it reduced (P less than or equal to 0.01) rates of axillary tiller emergence for blue grama (79%) and western wheatgrass (91%), respectively. Defoliation periodically increased relative growth rates (P less than or equal to 0.05) and tiller emergence (P less than or equal to 0.01) of both species. Neither drought nor grazing affected tiller densities or tiller replacement rates of either species nor did they affect productivity of blue grama. Drought, however, reduced (P less than or equal to 0.01) productivity of western wheatgrass 50% in 1994 whereas grazing reduced productivity (P less than or equal to 0.01) by 46% in 1994 and 69% in 1995. Moderate stocking levels (40-50% utilization) during and after drought did not adversely affect the sustainability of these dominant native grasses.
Effects of nitrogen availability on the growth of native grasses exotic weedsMany studies have shown that high nitrogen availability encourages the community dominance of exotic, weedy species. Other researchers have attempted to reduce existing exotic species infestations by reducing soil nitrogen availability. We tested the hypothesis that exotic weeds and native species differ in their response to nitrogen availability, predicting that the exotics would have a much more positive response than the natives at high nitrogen levels but that natives would better tolerate low nitrogen levels. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a greenhouse experiment investigating the aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, height, and aboveground tissue nitrogen concentration response of 2 North American native plant species, blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis H.B.K. Lag.) and western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii (Rybd.) A. Love), and 4 exotic species, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.), Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense L.), and Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens L.), to 5 levels of nitrogen availability, 0 g N/m2, 1 g N/m2, 4 g N/m2, 7g N/m2, and 10 g N/m2. We grew single individuals of each species from seed in 3 liter pots in the greenhouse for 75 days. The exotics and natives did differ in their response to nitrogen availability, but not in the predicted manner. The exotics did not have a more positive response to nitrogen availability than the native species, and the species with the poorest response was an exotic. There were no differences between the exotic and native species at any level of nitrogen availability in root:shoot ratios, total biomass, or percent leaf tissue nitrogen, but the native species as a group gained more height than the exotics at every level of nitrogen availability. Our data do not show a generalizable relationship between exotic or native plant groups and growth response to nitrogen.