Interspecific variation in bud banks and flowering effort among semi-arid African savanna grasses

TitleInterspecific variation in bud banks and flowering effort among semi-arid African savanna grasses
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsDalgleish, HJ, Ott, JP, Setshogo, M, Muzilla, M, Hartnett, DC
JournalSouth African Journal of Botany
Pagination127 -133
Accession NumberKNZ001550
KeywordsBud bank, Meristem, Poaceae, Reproductive allocation, Vegetative reproduction

Population viability and productivity of grasses in southern African savannas are dependent upon both successful seed production and tiller recruitment from the belowground bud bank. Relative recruitment rates from buds versus seeds influence population dynamics, genetic diversity, and patterns of vegetation productivity. We assessed patterns in bud bank size and flowering effort in fourteen semi-arid savanna grass species in the Kalahari region of Botswana. There was high inter-specific variability and between-year variability in flowering effort (percentage of tillers flowering). Bud production (number of buds per tiller) exhibited high inter-specific variability, but was more consistent between-years than flowering effort. Relative allocation to flowering versus bud production varied with life history, with longer-lived perennial grasses showing higher bud production and lower flowering effort relative to shorter-lived grasses. Several species showed higher bud production and lower flowering effort in a wet year compared to a dry year, and grass species that are regularly grazed maintained significantly larger bud banks than non-grazed species. These differential demographic responses among co-occurring species suggest that environmental change in semi-arid savannas may alter the composition, relative abundances and diversity of grasses, and that the maintenance of a belowground bud bank is an important factor influencing their resiliency, their capacity to recover from grazing and/or drought, and their persistence and sustainability under changing environmental conditions. Meristem-limitation in species that maintain few viable buds may constrain their population viability under changing conditions in semi-arid savannas.