Competition from Bromus tectorum removes differences between perennial grasses in N capture and conservation strategies
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Background and aims
Competition from the annual grass Bromus tectorum threatens aridland perennial bunchgrass communities. Unlike annuals, perennials must allocate part of their first year nitrogen (N) budget to storage rather than growth, potentially placing them at a competitive disadvantage.
We evaluated N acquisition and conservation for two perennial bunchgrasses, Agropyron desertorum and Pseudoroegneria spicata, at the seedling stage to investigate potential trade-offs between storage and growth when grown with and without B. tectorum under two levels of soil N.
Agropyron desertorum had higher growth rates, N uptake, and N productivity than P. spicata when grown without B. tectorum, but trait values were similarly low for both species under competition. Without competition, N resorption was poor under high soil N, but it was equally proficient among species under competition.
A. desertorum had higher growth rates and N productivity than P. spicata without competition, suggesting these traits may in part promote its greater success in restoration programs. However, B. tectorum neighbors reduced its trait advantage. As plant traits become more integral to restoration ecology, understanding how N capture and conservation traits vary across candidate species and under competition may improve our ability to select species with the highest likelihood of establishing in arid, nutrient-limited systems.
KeywordsDrylands Low nutrient adapted species Nitrogen productivity Resorption
We thank L. Ziegenhagen, EOARC interns, and Drenovsky lab members for help with plant maintenance and sample processing; J. Johansen, C. Muller, and C. Sheil for manuscript review; and the United States Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service and the John Carroll University College of Arts and Sciences for funding.
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