Belowground bud banks and meristem limitation in tallgrass prairie plant populations

TitleBelowground bud banks and meristem limitation in tallgrass prairie plant populations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsBenson, E, Hartnett, DC, Mann, K
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Pagination416 -421
Accession NumberKNZ00876
Keywordsfire, Rhizomes, Seed bank, tallgrass prairie

Rhizome meristem populations were sampled in tallgrass prairie to quantify the size, grass : forb composition, and temporal and spatial variability of the soil bud bank and to compare fire effects on bud bank and seed bank composition. Soil cores (10.5 cm diameter, 15 cm deep) were collected from replicate annually and infrequently burned tallgrass prairie sites, and intact rhizomes and rhizome buds were censused. Bud bank densities ranged from approximately 600 to 1800 meristems/m2 among sites and had high spatial and seasonal variability. In annually burned prairie, the total bud bank density was two-fold greater and the grass : forb meristem ratio was more than 30-fold greater than that of infrequently burned prairie. These patterns are opposite those observed in soil seed banks at this site. The rhizome population in annually burned prairie was 34% larger than the established aboveground tiller population. By contrast, the bud bank density in unburned prairie was significantly lower than aboveground stem densities, indicating possible belowground meristem limitation of stem density and net primary production on infrequently burned prairie. The patterns observed in this study suggest that the densities and dynamics of tallgrass prairie plant populations, as well as their response to disturbance (e.g., fire and grazing) and climatic variability, may be mediated principally through effects on the demography of belowground bud populations. Patterns of seed reproduction and seed bank populations have little influence on short-term aboveground population dynamics of tallgrass prairie perennials.