Martin, D. & Chambers, J. Plant Ecology (2002) 163: 77. doi:10.1023/A:1020372220163
Riparian meadows in the western US are highly productive areas withinthe riparian corridor that have been extensively utilized for livestock grazingand that are often degraded. This study aimed to increase our understanding ofboth the functional responses and restoration potential of mesic meadow systemsin central Nevada, USA. Nitrogen addition and clipping treatments were used toexamine grazing effects, while aeration and revegetation were included toevaluate potential restoration treatments. Belowground response was determinedby examining gravimetric soil water content and rooting depth and activity.Aboveground response was determined for two key mesic meadow species,Carex nebrascensis and Poa pratensis,by quantifying gas exchange and water relations. Large yearly and seasonaldifferences among water tables largely determined the rooting activity anddepthin these mesic meadows and influenced treatment responses. Little rootingactivity occurred within or at the surface of the water table and rooting depthincreased as water table level lowered during the growing season. In general,nitrogen addition decreased rooting activity and depth relative to controls. Itresulted in less negative water potentials and photosynthetic rates that werehigher early in the growing season, but lower later in the growing season. Theeffects of nitrogen addition could be attributed to accelerated phenology andearlier senescence. Clipping resulted in less negative plant water potentialsinCarex and Poa, andPoa had higher photosynthetic rates immediately afterclipping but only for certain dates and comparisons. Aeration increased rootingactivity and depth where there was no confounding effect of water table. Also,predawn and midday water potentials were generally less negative forCarex and Poa in aerated plots.Establishment on the revegetation plots was dominated by annual and early seralspecies and, consequently, these plots exhibited reduced rooting depth andactivity early in the growing season and high root turnover. Results indicatethat water table depth and its effects on soil water are dominant factors indetermining the functional processes and recovery potentials of these riparianmeadows. Clipping had minimal effects on above- and belowground responses,perhaps because clipping was performed late in the growing season after plantshad begun to senescence. Nitrogen addition decreased rooting activity andaltered phenology, indicating deleterious effects. Aeration was effective atovercoming some of the negative affects of overgrazing and may be an effectiverestoration treatment. However, revegetation may have limited potential due toestablishment constraints of the dominant species.