, Volume 15, Issue 4-6, pp 363-382

The effects of mowing and fertilization on carbohydrate reserves and regrowth of grasses: do they promote plant coexistence in species-rich meadows?

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Abstract

After the cessation of regular management and after fertilization a single clonal species tends to dominate in many types of grasslands, whereas in regularly managed meadows these potential dominants usually attain a low cover. It has been hypothesized that plants reaching a high dominance in abandoned and fertilized meadows are selectively suppressed by mowing so that a balanced competition is maintained and competitive exclusion is postponed. We compared regeneration capacity and carbohydrate reserves accumulated by three species of clonal grasses, which markedly increase their dominance in irregularly mown, un-mown or fertilized meadows. Above-ground biomass and the amount of storage carbohydrates of the two largest species, (Molinia arundinacea, Calamagrostis epigejos) were reduced in a mown meadow. This effect was weaker in Bromus erectus, which produces smaller shoots. Shoots of Molinia were most impacted by mowing but their regeneration was efficient due to the large carbohydrate reserves in the shoot bases. Fertilization did not affect Bromus and Calamagrostis. In contrast, fertilized plants of Molinia produced larger storage organs and accumulated more carbohydrates. We conclude that plant size and growth form are important features promoting the ability of potential dominants to tolerate mowing and regenerate after it. Our results confirm that taller plants are selectively suppressed by this type of disturbance, thereby potentially promoting plant coexistence.