Competitive ability is linked to rates of water extraction
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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 wordsAgropyron Artemisia Competition Competitive ability Water depletion
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