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1 January 2018 Seedling Defoliation and Drought Stress: Variation in Intensity and Frequency Affect Performance and Survival
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Our ability to restore rangelands is limited, and it is unknown if seedling herbivory on its own, or in interaction with other stressors, is a major contributor to restoration failure. To address this, we conducted two experiments: a No Defoliation (ND) experiment (n=48), in which seedlings from three perennial grasses (crested wheatgrass [Agropyron cristatum {(L.} Gaertn.], bluebunch wheatgrass [Psuedoroegnaria spicata {Pursh} Á. Love], Sandberg bluegrass [Poa secunda J Presl]) were subjected to wet and dry water regimes for 4 mo, and a concurrent Defoliation (D) experiment (n = 95), in which seedlings were factorially assigned to two defoliation treatments—frequency (LOW, HIGH) and intensity (30% vegetation removal, 70% vegetation removal). Indicators of seedling performance were aboveground and belowground biomass (AGB and BGB), root:shoot ratio, tillering, and mortality. The effect size statistic, Hedge's g, allowed for comparisons between performance measures. Water stress induced reductions inmost performance measures: BGB (g=ND: -1.3; D: -1.6), root:shoot ratio (g=ND: n.s.; D: -0.2), and tillering (g= ND: -1.7; D: -1.2), though not significantly for all species. For ABG, water stress interacted with defoliation, reducing performance less at an intensity of 70% (g = -2.0) as opposed to 30% (g = -3.0), but not always significantly in the former. Water stress also caused less reduction in AGB when no defoliation occurred (ND: -0.8; g=D: -2.5). Intensity and frequency of defoliation interacted; seedlings were generally resistant to reductions in performance except at high frequency, 70% defoliation. Agropyron cristatum and P. spicata displayed similar sensitivity to treatments, mostly in terms of changes in AGB and BGB, while P. secunda also experienced increased mortality and reduced tillering. If these differences in sensitivity result in differential survival, herbivory could impact species postrestoration population demographics.

Elsie M. Denton, Brenda S. Smith, Erik P. Hamerlynck, and Roger L. Sheley "Seedling Defoliation and Drought Stress: Variation in Intensity and Frequency Affect Performance and Survival ," Rangeland Ecology and Management 71(1), 25-34, (1 January 2018).
Received: 20 December 2016; Accepted: 1 June 2017; Published: 1 January 2018

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