, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 225-238
Date: 25 Jun 2010

How is Regeneration of Plants after Mowing Affected by Shoot Size in Two Species-Rich Meadows with Different Water Supply?

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Abstract

Mowing a meadow is an example of an equalizing process that reduces differences among species by removing aboveground biomass approximately 5 cm above ground. This regular disturbance that affects all plants prevents competitive exclusion of small species and thus allows coexistence of numerous species differing in shoot size. In this paper we search for the mechanism behind this by comparing the shoot biomass of 41 common species in dry and wet species-rich meadows in mown and recently abandoned plots in June (before mowing) and in October. We asked the following questions: i) Do the plants differ in proportion of biomass lost by mowing? ii) Are the mown plants able to compensate for biomass lost by mowing? iii) Is the compensatory ability of mown plants related to their size? iv) Is the compensatory ability of plants related to severity of disturbance (removed biomass)? v) Does water availability in meadows affect these features? Our results revealed that the earlier explanation of equalization of meadow plants after mowing due to the proportionally larger biomass loss in larger plants than small plants does not represent the entire mechanism. Even when larger plants in the wet meadow lost more biomass, the proportion of lost biomass was not dependent on plant size, and compensation ability (growth of mown in comparison with unmown plants) was not related to the lost biomass in this meadow type. On the contrary, the observed pattern could be explained by different compensation abilities of small versus tall plants. In addition, according to our expectations, the compensation for lost biomass in the wet meadow was higher than in the dry one.