Plant Ecology

, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 43–51 | Cite as

Relative herbivory tolerance and competitive ability in two dominant : subordinate pairs of perennial grasses in a native grassland

  • B.C. Hendon
  • D.D. Briske


We evaluated herbivory tolerance and competitive ability within twodominant : subordinate pairs of C4, perennial grasses at each of twosites to determine the contribution of these processes to herbivore-inducedspecies replacement. Herbivory tolerance was assessed by cumulative regrowthfrom defoliated plants of each species and competitive ability was evaluated byrelative uptake of a 15N isotope placed into the soil between pairedspecies in the field. Herbivory tolerance was similar for the dominant andsubordinate species in both plant pairs and defoliation intensity had a greaterinfluence on herbivory tolerance than did defoliation pattern. Both specieswithin the Sorghastrum nutans : Schizachyriumscoparium pairs exhibited comparable nitrogen acquisition from a15N enriched pulse with or without defoliation. In contrast,S. scoparium acquired more 15N than did itssubordinate neighbor, Bothriochloa laguroides when thisspecies pair was undefoliated. Uniform defoliation of this species pair at adefoliation intensity removing 70% of the shoot mass accentuated this responsefurther demonstrating the greater competitive ability of the dominant comparedto the subordinate species. Although the 90% defoliation intensity reducednitrogen acquisition by the dominant relative to the subordinate species,B. laguroides, it did not reduce nitrogen acquisition bythe dominant below that of the subordinate neighbor. The occurrence of similarherbivory tolerance among dominant and subordinate species indicates thatselective herbivory suppressed the greater competitive ability, rather than thegreater herbivory tolerance, of the dominant grasses in this experimentaldesign. These data suggest that interspecific competitive ability may be ofequal or greater importance than herbivory tolerance in mediatingherbivore-induced species replacement in mesic grasslands and savannas.

Competitive ability Defoliation-competition interaction Herbivory tolerance Plant-animal interaction Species replacement 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • B.C. Hendon
    • 1
  • D.D. Briske
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Rangeland Ecology and ManagementTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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