Characteristics of successful competitors: an evaluation of potential growth rate in two cold desert tussock grasses

D. M. Eissenstat, M. M. Caldwell

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26 Scopus citations


Within the first few weeks after seedling emergence, Agropyron desertorum, a more competitive tussock grass, had a much higher mean relative growth rate (RGR) than Agropyron spicatum, a very similar, but less competitive species. However, beyond the early seedling stage, the two grasses had a remarkably similar whole-plant RGR in hydroponic culture and aboveground RGR in glasshouse soil, if root temperatures were above approximately 12°C. At soil temperatures between 5 and 12°C, A. desertorum exhibited a 66% greater aboveground RGR than A. spicatum (P<0.05). Both species responded similarly to warming soil temperatures. In the field, however, tiller growth rates were generally similar. Neither species showed marked tiller elongation until a couple of weeks after snowmelt, by which time soil temperatures, at least to a depth of 10 cm, were above 12°C for a significant portion of the day. Aboveground biomass accumulation over a three-year period indicated that both grasses had similar potential growth rates whereas Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana, a common neighbor planted in the same plots, had a much greater potential growth rate. The greater competitive ability of adult A. desertorum, as compared to A. spicatum, cannot be attributed to appreciable differences in potential growth rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-173
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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