Oecologia

, Volume 79, Issue 1, pp 45–52

Comparative responses of the Savanna grasses Cenchrus ciliaris and Themeda triandra to defoliation

  • K. C. Hodgkinson
  • M. M. Ludlow
  • J. J. Mott
  • Z. Baruch
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00378238

Cite this article as:
Hodgkinson, K.C., Ludlow, M.M., Mott, J.J. et al. Oecologia (1989) 79: 45. doi:10.1007/BF00378238
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Summary

Two perennial tussock grasses of savannas were compared in a glasshouse study to determine why they differed in their ability to withstand frequent, heavy grazing; Cenchrus ciliaris is tolerant and Themeda triandra is intolerant of heavy grazing. Frequent defoliation at weekly intervals for six weeks reduced shoot biomass production over a subsequent 42 day regrowth period compared with previously undefoliated plants (infrequent) in T. triandra, but not in C. ciliaris. Leaf area of T. triandra expanded rapidly following defoliation but high initial relative growth rates of shoots were not sustained after 14 days of regrowth because of reducing light utilising efficiency of leaves. Frequently defoliated plants were slower in rate of leaf area expansion and this was associated with reduced photosynthetic capacity of newly formed leaves, lower allocation of photosynthate to leaves but not lower tiller numbers. T. triandra appears well adapted to a regime where defoliation is sufficiently infrequent to allow carbon to be fixed to replace that used in initial leaf area expansion. In contrast, C. ciliaris is better adapted to frequent defoliation than is T. triandra, because horizontally orientated nodal tillers are produced below the defoliation level. This morphological adaptation resulted in a 10-fold higher leaf area remaining after defoliation compared with similarly defoliated T. triandra, which together with the maintenance of moderate levels of light utilising efficiency, contributed to the higher leaf area and shoot weight throughout the regrowth period.

Key words

GrazingCenchrus ciliarisThemeda triandraSavanna grassesShoot regrowth

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. C. Hodgkinson
    • 1
  • M. M. Ludlow
    • 2
  • J. J. Mott
    • 2
  • Z. Baruch
    • 2
  1. 1.CSIRO Division of Wildlife and EcologyRangelands Research CentreDeniliquinAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Division of Tropical Crops and PasturesSt. LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Dpt. Estudios AmbientalesUniversidad Simon BolivarCaracasVenezuela