Recruitment potential of two perennial grasses with different growth forms at a semiarid-arid transition zone

TitleRecruitment potential of two perennial grasses with different growth forms at a semiarid-arid transition zone
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsPeters DC
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Date PublishedOctober 1, 2002
Accession NumberJRN00364
ARIS Log Number149777
KeywordsBouteloua eriopoda, Bouteloua gracilis, Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, grass–shrub interactions, intra‐ and interspecific interactions, Poaceae, seed production, shortgrass steppe

The objective of this study was to quantify differences in recruitment potential (seed production, seed presence in the soil) for two congeneric perennial grasses (Bouteloua gracilis, Bouteloua eriopoda [Poaceae]) that dominate adjacent arid and semiarid grassland biomes. It was hypothesized that these species have different recruitment strategies at the biome transition zone that are related to differences in their growth form and longevity. Recruitment potential for each Bouteloua species was compared in patches dominated by one or both species or codominated by the invasive shrub, Larrea tridentata (Zygophyllaceae). Regional variation in recruitment was examined for B. gracilis for cases in which comparable data were available in the literature for a site located within the semiarid grassland biome. The short‐lived stoloniferous species B. eriopoda produced more seeds per plant than the long‐lived bunchgrass B. gracilis, yet seed viability (<60%) and presence in the soil were lower. Mean viability of B. gracilis was higher (>90%) than that of B. eriopoda, and a greater percentage of seeds produced on a square meter basis was found in the soil (10–25%). Similar patterns were found for both species in all grass‐dominated patches. Bouteloua eriopoda plants growing in patches codominated by L. tridentata produced fewer seeds per plant with lower viability, and fewer seeds were found in the soil compared to grass‐dominated patches. Regional comparisons found greater seed production per square meter and more seeds in the soil for B. gracilis at the transitional site compared with a cooler, wetter site located within the semiarid grassland biome. These differences in recruitment potential along with published differences in rates of seedling establishment and vegetative spread may explain, at least in part, localized patterns in species dominance.