The effect of shading on photosynthesis, growth, and regrowth following defoliation for Bromus tectorum

Summary

The effect of full sunlight, 60%, or 90% attenuated light on photosynthetic rate, growth, leaf morphology, dry weight allocation patterns, phenology, and tolerance to clipping was examined in the glasshouse for steppe populations of the introduced grass, Bromus tectorum. The net photosynthetic response to light for plants grown in shade was comparable to responses for plants grown in full sunlight. Plants grown in full sunlight produced more biomass, tillers and leaves, and allocated a larger proportion of their total production to roots than plants grown in shade. The accumulation of root and shoot biomass over the first two months of seedling growth was primarily responsible for the larger size at harvest of plants grown in full sunlight. Plants grown under 60% and 90% shade flowered an average of 2 and 6 weeks later, respectively, than plants grown in full sunlight. Regrowth after clipping was greater for plants grown in full sunlight compared to those grown in shade. Even a one-time clipping delayed flowering and seed maturation; the older the individual when leaf area was removed, the greater the delay in its phenology. Repeated removal of leaf area was more frequently fatal for plants in shade than in full sunlight. For plants originally grown in full sunlight, regrowth in the dark was greater than for shaded plants and was more closely correlated to non-flowering tiller number than to plant size. This correlation suggests that etiolated regrowth is more likely regulated by the number of functional meristems than by differences in the size of carbohydrate pools. Thus, shading reduces the rate of growth, number of tillers, and ability to replace leaf area lost to herbivory for B. tectorum. These responses, in turn, intensify the effect of competition and defoliation for this grass in forests. B. tectorum is largely restricted to forest gaps at least in part because of its inability to acclimate photosynthetically, the influence of shade on resource allocation, and the role of herbivory in exacerbating these effects.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth A. Pierson.

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Pierson, E.A., Mack, R.N. & Black, R.A. The effect of shading on photosynthesis, growth, and regrowth following defoliation for Bromus tectorum . Oecologia 84, 534–543 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00328171

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Key words

  • Photosynthetic rate
  • Bromus tectorum
  • Relative growth rate
  • Defoliation
  • Shade