|Bud banks of perennial savanna grasses in Botswana
|Year of Publication
|Hartnett, DC, Setshogo, MP, Dalgleish, HJ
|African Journal of Ecology
|clonal plants, meristems, Plant demography, reproductive strategy, Vegetative reproduction
Three semi-arid savanna grasses in Botswana (Stipagrostis uniplumis, Eragrostis lehmanniana, and Aristida stipitata) were sampled to quantify their belowground bud banks during the dormant season and to estimate their relative allocation to vegetative and sexual reproduction. Bud banks of these African perennial caespitose grasses were also compared with four perennial caespitose grasses of semi-arid North American grasslands. The three African grasses each maintained approximately two buds per tiller and showed a high percentage (88–99%) of tillers producing seed. Only E. lehmanniana produced new aerial tillers from axillary buds at elevated nodes on the stem as well as from the belowground bud bank. Compared with species of North American grasslands, these African grasses produced fewer belowground buds but showed a much higher percentage of tillers producing seed. These patterns indicate relatively greater belowground meristem limitation, lower allocation to vegetative reproduction (tillering) and higher allocation to seed reproduction in these African grasses, although studies of more species are needed to assess the generality of this pattern. The management of savannas in ways that favour the maintenance of a reserve population of belowground buds may increase the ability of grasses to respond to pulses of resource availability, increase their compensatory growth capacity following grazing or drought, and decrease the invasibility of these plant communities by exotic species, whereas maintaining allocation to sexual reproduction may be important for conserving genetic variation and enhancing their capacity to adapt to environmental change.