Contrasting bud bank dynamics of two co-occurring grasses in tallgrass prairie: implications for grassland dynamics

TitleContrasting bud bank dynamics of two co-occurring grasses in tallgrass prairie: implications for grassland dynamics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsOtt, JP, Hartnett, DC
JournalPlant Ecology
Pagination1437 -1448
Accession NumberKNZ001492
KeywordsMeristem, Photosynthetic pathway, Plant demography, Plant population dynamics, Tiller recruitment, Vegetative reproduction

Because most shoot recruitment in perennial grasses occurs from belowground axillary buds, bud dynamics determine plant population dynamics and meristem limitation to population growth. Therefore, grassland vegetation responses to environmental change or disturbance may be influenced by interspecific differences in bud banks and the patterns and environmental controls of bud development and demography. We examined bud bank dynamics in Andropogon gerardii and Dichanthelium oligosanthes in tallgrass prairie by enumerating and classifying buds throughout 15 months to determine whether grass buds live for multiple years and accumulate; whether bud natality, dormancy and outgrowth are synchronous or variable; and whether bud bank dynamics differ between these co-occurring species. Andropogon gerardii (a C4 species) maintained a larger dormant bud bank, showed synchrony in bud development and transition to tiller, and its buds lived for multiple years. Thus, multiple previous years’ bud cohorts contributed to recruitment. By contrast, D. oligosanthes (a C3 species) maintained a smaller dormant bud bank, had asynchronous bud development with active buds present year-round, and its buds lived for 1 year. Buds played different roles in the dynamics of each species, allowing A. gerardii to over-winter and recruit new spring tillers and D. oligosanthes to survive and recruit new tillers following summer dormancy. These differences in bud bank age structure, phenology, and dynamics between these species suggest greater demographic buffering and time-lag effects in A. gerardii populations. Interspecific differences in bud bank structure and dynamics may explain and help predict grassland responses to environmental change.