, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 1–7 | Cite as

Competitive ability is linked to rates of water extraction

A field study of two aridland tussock grasses
  • D. M. Eissenstat
  • M. M. Caldwell
Original Papers


The relative competitive abilities of Agropyron desertorum and Agropyron spicatum under rangeland conditions were compared using Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis transplants as indicator plants. We found A. desertorum to have substantially greater competitive ability than A. spicatum as manifested by the responses of Artemisia shrubs that were transplanted into nearly monospecific stands of these grass species. The Artemisia indicator plants had lower survival, growth, reproduction, and late-season water potential in the neighborhoods dominated by A. desertorum than in those dominated by A. spicatum. In similar, essentially monospecific grass stands, neutron probe soil moisture measurements showed that stands of A. desertorum extracted water more rapidly from the soil profile than did those of A. spicatum. These differences in extraction rates correlate clearly with the differences in indicator plant success in the respective grass stands. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in Artemisia tissues suggested these nutrients were not limiting indicator plant growth and survival in the A. desertorum plots.

Key words

Agropyron Artemisia Competition Competitive ability Water depletion 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson TW (1958) An introduction to multivariate statistical methods. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Association of Official Analytical Chemists (1980) Official methods of analysis of the association of official analytical chemists. Horowitz W (ed) 13th ed. WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  3. Barkworth ME, Dewey DR (1985) Genomically based genera in the perennial Triticeae of North America; identification and membership. Am J Bot 72:767–776Google Scholar
  4. Caldwell MM, Richards JH (1986) Competing root systems: morphology phology and models of absorption. In: Givnish TJ (ed) On the economy of plant form and function. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, pp 251–273Google Scholar
  5. Caldwell MM, White RS, Moore RT, Camp LB (1977) Carbon balance, productivity, and water use of cold-winter desert shrub communities dominated by C3 and C4 species. Oecologia (Berlin) 29:275–300Google Scholar
  6. Caldwell MM, Richards JH, Johnson DA, Nowak RS, Dzurec RS (1981) Coping with herbivory: photosynthetic capacity and resource allocation in two semiarid Agropyron bunchgrasses. Oecologia (Berlin) 50:14–24Google Scholar
  7. Caldwell MM, Dean TJ, Nowak RS, Dzurec RS, Richards JH (1983) Bunchgrass architecture, light interception, and wateruse efficiency: assessment by fiber optic point quadrants and gas exchange. Oecologia (Berlin) 59:178–184Google Scholar
  8. Caldwell MM, Eissenstat DM, Richards JH, Allen MF (1985) Competition for phosphorus: differential uptake from dualisotope-labeled soil interspace between shrub and grass. Science 229:384–386Google Scholar
  9. Caldwell MM, Richards JH, Manwaring JH, Eissenstat DM (1987) Rapid shifts in phosphate acquisition show direct competition between neighbouring plants. Nature 237:615–616Google Scholar
  10. Eissenstat DM (1986) Belowground resource exploitation in semiarid plants. A comparative study using two tussock grass species that differe in competitive ability. PhD Dissertation, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USAGoogle Scholar
  11. Eissenstat DM, Caldwell MM (1987) Characteristics of successful competitors: An evaluation of potential growth rate in two cold desert tussock grasses. Oecologia (Berlin) 71:167–173Google Scholar
  12. Fienberg SE (1970) The analysis of multidimensional contingency tables. Ecology 51:419–433Google Scholar
  13. Firbank LG, Watkinson AR (1987) On the analysis of competition at the level of the individual plant. Oecologia (Berlin) 71:308–317Google Scholar
  14. Framstad E, Engen S, Stenseth NC (1985) Regression analysis, residual analysis and missing variables in regression models. Oikos 44:319–323Google Scholar
  15. Harris GA, Wilson AM (1970) Competition for moisture among seedlings of annual and perennial grasses as influenced by root elongation at low temperature. Ecology 51:529–534Google Scholar
  16. Hironaka M, Fosberg MA, Winward AH (1983) Sagebrush-grass habitat types of southern Idaho. Forest, Wildlife, and Range Exp Sta, Univ of Idaho, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  17. Huyhn H, Feldt LS (1976) Estimation of the Box correction for degrees of freedom from sample data in randomized and splitplot designs. J Educ Stat 1:69–82Google Scholar
  18. James DW, Jurinak JJ (1978) Nitrogen fertilization of dominant plants in the northeastern Great Basin Desert. In: West NE, Skujins JJ (eds) Nitrogen in desert ecosystems, US/IBP Synthesis Series 9, Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc. Stroudsburg, pp 219–231Google Scholar
  19. Nowak RS, Caldwell MM (1984a) A test of compensatory photosynthesis in the field: implications for herbivory tolerance. Oecologia (Berlin) 61:311–318Google Scholar
  20. Nowak RS, Caldwell MM (1984b) Photosynthetic capacity and survival of foliage during winter for two bunchgrass species in a cold-winter steppe environment. Photosynthetica 18:192–200Google Scholar
  21. Nowak RS, Caldwell MM (1986) Photosynthetic characteristics of crested wheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass. J Range Man 39:443–450Google Scholar
  22. Richards JH, Caldwell MM (1985) Soluble carbohydrates, concurrent photosynthesis and efficiency in regrowth following defoliation: A field study with Agropyron species. J Appl Ecol 22:907–920Google Scholar
  23. Thorgeirsson H (1985) Temporal and spatial partitioning of the soil water resource between two Agropyron bunchgrasses and Artemisia tridentata. Ms thesis, Utah State Univ., Logan, UtahGoogle Scholar
  24. Weiner J (1982) A neighborhood model of annual plant interference. Ecology 63:1237–1241Google Scholar
  25. Weiner J (1984) Neighborhood interference amongst Pinus rigida individuals. J Ecol 72:183–195Google Scholar
  26. Young JA, Evans RA (1986) Seedling establishment of five sources of big sagebrush in reciprocal gardens. In: McArthur DD, Welch BL (compilers) Proceedings-Symposium on the biology of Artemisia and Chrysothamnus. Intermtn Res Sta Gen Tech Rept INT-200, Ogden, Utah, pp 370–374Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. M. Eissenstat
    • 1
  • M. M. Caldwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Range Science Department and the Ecology CenterUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.IFAS, Citrus Research and Education CenterUniversity of FloridaLake AlfredUSA

Personalised recommendations