Facilitative effect of Lotustenuis on Paspalumdilatatum in a lowland grassland of Argentina
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We studied the responses in growth and N content of the perennial grass Paspalum dilatatum to the substitution of Lotus tenuis for a whole group of species, the dicotyledons of a natural grassland community, in the Salado lowland Pampas of Argentina. Two kinds of manipulations were performed in the field: removal of alien dicots with herbicide application, and introduction of L. tenuis, resulting in a combination of four treatments, arranged in a 2 × 2 factorial randomized block design. Leaf area per tiller of P. dilatatum was higher when it was growing near L. tenuis; this increase was the result of a greater leaf elongation rate and slower leaf senescence. In the vicinity of L. tenuis, P. dilatatum exhibited an increase in tiller production and a decrease in tiller death. More tillers were functional at the end of the growing season and their aboveground biomass was 5␣times higher than for plants growing in plots where the community dicots were removed. This increment was accompanied by a higher N content. Growth enhancement of P. dilatatum plants when L. tenuis was the␣immediate neighbour is interpreted as the result of facilitation mediated by higher N availability, and not as a consequence of a release from competition exerted by the community dicots. Competition and facilitation did not interact to produce an increase in the vegetative output of Paspalum dilatatum plants growing under these field conditions. It is on these grounds that Lotus tenuis might be considered as a keystone species in the managed grassland.
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