, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 92–102

Effects of simulated grazing on foliage and root production and biomass allocation in an arctic tundra sedge (Eriophorum vaginatum)

  • S. Archer
  • L. L. Tieszen
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00384547

Cite this article as:
Archer, S. & Tieszen, L.L. Oecologia (1983) 58: 92. doi:10.1007/BF00384547


Eriophorum vaginatum is a tussock-forming member of the Cyperaceae, widespread in the arctic tundra, and a common food item for grazing herbivores on the Alaskan North Slope. Populations of this sedge at Atkasook, Alaska, were subjected to a variety of simulated grazing experiments to determine tiller responses to frequent and intensive defoliation.

The intial, short-term response of Eriphorum to defoliation was an increase in leaf production at the expense of belowground structures. Multiple defoliations, however, resulted in proportionately greater reductions in leaf weight than leaf area. Leaf blades of defoliated plants weighed 0.71 mg/cm of length, compared to an average weight/length ratio of 0.91 mg/cm in control plants. Declines in leaf production were accompanied by weight losses in stem base and sheath components and a curtailment of root growth. Root initiation was reduced by 28 and 63%, respectively, after one and two seasons of multiple defoliations, and the depth of penetration of these annual roots was reduced substantially. Total root biomass was reduced 24% in the least severe defoliation treatment and 85% in the most severe treatment. The allocation of dry matter into new tillers on defoliated plants, relative to new tiller production of control plants, was reduced by 75% after two seasons of defoliation, although equivalent numbers of tillers were initiated. The reduced biomass of daughter tillers was restored to levels observed in control plants during the season of rest following the season of multiple defoliation. Sexual reproduction was significantly depressed in the most severe defoliation treatment and stimulated by the least severe treatment. Defoliation treatments of intermediate severity had no significant impact on flower initiation.

Over 80% of the tillers subjected to complete defoliation at 10-day intervals for one entire growing season survived, overwintered and initiated growth the following season. Recovery from multiple defoliations was partially achieved by the stimulated growth and extended longevity of older leaves on the tiller, although one season of rest was not enough to fully replenish weight losses of storage organs. Tillers were capable of withstanding more defoliation events when clipping was initiated early in the growing season. Biomass of storage organs of tillers subjected to multiple defoliations imposed at 10-day intervals for two entire growing seasons was 34% above the estimated minimum biomass necessary for tiller survival. The data suggest that Eriophorum tillers can survive 100% leaf removal at 10-day intervals for 50 to 75% of their estimated three to four year lifespan.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Archer
    • 1
  • L. L. Tieszen
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentAugustana CollegeSioux FallsUSA
  2. 2.Range Science Department and Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA