A test of compensatory photosynthesis in the field: Implications for herbivory tolerance
- Cite this article as:
- Nowak, R.S. & Caldwell, M.M. Oecologia (1984) 61: 311. doi:10.1007/BF00379627
The occurrence of compensatory photosynthesis was examined in the field for all foliage elements on two Agropyron bunchgrass species that differ in their evolutionary history of grazing pressure. This is the first reported field study of compensatory photosynthesis in individual foliage elements of graminoids. Compensatory photosynthesis was defined as an increase in the photosynthetic rates of foliage on partially defoliated plants relative to foliage of the same age on undefoliated plants. Compensatory photosynthesis did occur in many individual foliage elements during at least part of their ontogeny. For both species, compensatory photosynthesis was related primarily to delayed leaf senescence and increased soluble protein concentrations, but not to an improvement in the water status of clipped plants. Soluble protein concentration increased in all foliage elements. A delay in senescence on clipped plants was documented for the two oldest, fully-expanded leaves that were present when the plants were initially clipped, but the initiation and senescence of all other foliage elements were not affected by the clipping treatments. Photosynthetic water use efficiency and photosynthetic rates per unit soluble protein of foliage on partially defoliated plants were not increased following the clipping treatments. Although A. desertorum and A. spicatum were exposed to different levels of grazing pressure during their evolutionary history, the phenology, water status, and gas exchange rates of foliage were very similar both for undefoliated as well as partially defoliated plants. Thus, we conclude that compensatory photosynthesis does not appear to be an important ecological component of herbivory tolerance for these species.