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Responses of tropical native and invader C4 grasses to water stress, clipping and increased atmospheric CO2 concentration
- Baruch, Zdravko, Jackson, Robert B.
- Oecologia 2005 v.145 no.4 pp. 522-532
- tropics, savannas, grasses, Trachypogon, invasive species, Hyparrhenia rufa, Melinis minutiflora, drought, water stress, carbon dioxide, elevated atmospheric gases, herbivores, plant growth, seed germination, plant competition, indigenous species
- The invasion of African grasses into Neotropical savannas has altered savanna composition, structure and function. The projected increase in atmospheric CO₂ concentration has the potential to further alter the competitive relationship between native and invader grasses. The objective of this study was to quantify the responses of two populations of a widespread native C₄ grass (Trachypogon plumosus) and two African C₄ grass invaders (Hyparrhenia rufa and Melinis minutiflora) to high CO₂ concentration interacting with two primary savanna stressors: drought and herbivory. Elevated CO₂ increased the competitive potential of invader grasses in several ways. Germination and seedling size was promoted in introduced grasses. Under high CO₂, the relative growth rate of young introduced grasses was twice that of native grass (0.58 g g⁻¹ week⁻¹ vs 0.25 g g⁻¹ week⁻¹). This initial growth advantage was maintained throughout the course of the study. Well-watered and unstressed African grasses also responded more to high CO₂ than did the native grass (biomass increases of 21–47% compared with decreases of 13–51%). Observed higher water and nitrogen use efficiency of invader grasses may aid their establishment and competitive strength in unfertile sites, specially if the climate becomes drier. In addition, high CO₂ promoted lower leaf N content more in the invader grasses. The more intensive land use, predicted to occur in this region, may interact with high CO₂ to fincreasesavor the African grasses, as they generally recovered faster after simulated herbivory. The superiority of invader grasses under high CO₂ suggests further in their competitive strength and a potential increased rate of displacement of the native savannas in the future by grasslands dominated by introduced African species.