Growth responses of twodominant C4 grass species to altered water availability

TitleGrowth responses of twodominant C4 grass species to altered water availability
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSwemmer, AM, Knapp, AK, Smith, MD
JournalInternationalJournal of Plant Sciences
Pagination1001 -1010
Accession NumberKNZ001070
KeywordsAndropogon gerardii, biomass allocation, Climate change, leaf turnover, photosynthesis, Sorghastrum nutans, water stress

Identifying key ecophysiological traits that differ among dominant plant species and can be linked to species‐specific responses to drought would improve our ability to forecast community and ecosystem responses to global climate change. The mesic grasslands of the central plains of North America are dominated by two C4 grass species, Andropogon gerardii and Sorghastrum nutans, which purportedly differ in their tolerance of water stress. Individuals of these two species were grown in the field under rain‐out shelters and subjected to wet (watered every 2–3 d) or dry (repeatedly subjected to wilting before watering) soil moisture regimes. A range of ecophysiological traits potentially important for tolerating water stress were concurrently measured. Although few traits differed between the species in the wet treatment, several traits were identified in the dry treatment that may enable A. gerardii to better tolerate drought. These were greater allocation to roots, reduced allocation to flowering, more rapid leaf turnover, and more rapid recovery of photosynthesis after wilting. The latter two traits may be particularly important for coping with increased variability in rainfall regimes in the future and are consistent with recently documented responses of A. gerardii to experimental increases in soil moisture variability.