Plant and Soil

, Volume 181, Issue 2, pp 175–184

Dynamics of energy and nutrient concentration and construction cost in a native and two alien C4 grasses from two neotropical savannas

  • Zdravko Baruch
  • José A. Gómez

DOI: 10.1007/BF00012051

Cite this article as:
Baruch, Z. & Gómez, J.A. Plant Soil (1996) 181: 175. doi:10.1007/BF00012051


In Venezuela, the alien grasses Melinis minutiflora Beauv. and Hyparrhenia rufa (Nees.) Stapf tend to displace the native savanna plant community dominated by Trachypogon plumosus (Humb. and Bonpl.) Nees. This occurs in either relatively wetter and fertile highland savannas or in drier and less fertile lowland savannas. Although the native and aliens are perennial C4 grasses, higher net assimilation leaf biomass per plant and germination rate of the latter are some causes for their higher growth rates and for their competitive success. The objective of this study is to compare seasonal tissue energy, N, P and K concentrations and the calculated construction costs (CC) between the native grass and either one of the alien grasses from lowland and highland savannas. We predict that, in order to out-compete native plants, alien grasses should be more efficient in resource use as evidenced by lower tissue energy and nutrient concentrations and CC.

Tissue energy and nutrient concentration were measured throughout the year and compared between M. minutiflora and the co-occurring local population of T. plumosus in a highland savanna and between H. rufa and its neighbor local population of T. plumosus in a lowland savanna. CC was calculated from energy, N and ash concentrations considering ammonium as the sole N source. Differences between co-occurring species, T. plumosus populations, seasons, and organs were analyzed with ANOVA.

Highland and lowland grasses differed in concentration and allocation of energy and nutrients whereas the differences between alien and native grasses were specific for each pair considered. Highland grasses had higher energy, N, P and CC than lowland grasses. These variables were always lowest in the culms. In the more stressed lowland site, tissue energy and nutrient concentrations decreased significantly during the dry season except in the roots of both grasses which had the highest energy and nutrients concentrations during the drought. This seasonal response was more marked in the local lowland population of T. plumosus in which maximum CC alternated seasonally between leaves and roots. Energy and nutrient concentrations and CC were the lowest in H. rufa. In the lowland savannas, the higher efficiency of resource use in the invader grass contributes to its higher competitive success through increased growth rate. In the highlands, overall tissue energy concentration and CC, but not N nor P concentration, were lower in the fast growing M. minutiflora but seasonal differences were lacking. The higher leaf CC in T. plumosus can be attributed to the higher proportion of sclerenchyma tissue which is more expensive to construct. Considering CC, both fast growing alien grasses are more efficient in resource use than the co-occurring native grass. However, the role of CC explaining the competitive success of the former, through higher growth rates, is more evident in the more stressful environment of the lowland savanna.

Key words

construction costs energy concentration mineral nutrient concentration savannas tropical C4 grasses Venezuela 
Download to read the full article text

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zdravko Baruch
    • 1
  • José A. Gómez
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento Estudios AmbientalesUniversidad Simón BolívarCaracasVenezuela

Personalised recommendations