, Volume 118, Issue 3, pp 316-323

Regrowth following ungulate herbivory in Ipomopsis aggregata : geographic evidence for overcompensation

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Studies were conducted on eight populations of scarlet gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata, across Colorado and in northern Arizona, to assess the fitness consequences of natural and simulated herbivory. To date, geographic studies have failed to incorporate treatment groups that included naturally browsed plants along with clipping treatments. The results presented here clearly demonstrate the importance of assessing, a priori, whether or not clipping experiments accurately reflect natural patterns of herbivory. Although because of the timing of the clip no evidence of overcompensation was found in any of the Colorado populations when ungulate herbivory was simulated in experimental clipping treatments, evidence for overcompensation was found in more than half the populations when plants that were naturally browsed and matched for size using root diameters were included early in the season. Matching plants for size based on root diameter late in the season would be problematic because root diameters significantly increased in size in all eight populations following high levels of ungulate herbivory and/or experimental clipping. Results from this study, and other recent studies on another biennial herb, the field gentian, clearly demonstrate that overcompensation is not only a real phenomenon but also is more widespread, both taxonomically and geographically, than previously thought.