Date of Award:

1992

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Brien E. Norton

Abstract

The effects of grazing and moisture availability on the competitive interactions of intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Barkw. & D.R. Dewey) and western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii (Rhydb.) A. Love) were examined under a short-duration grazing system in central Utah. The fate of tiller cohorts was observed at approximately monthly intervals at the interface between patches of these two rhizomatous grasses and in monospecific stands. The effects of short-duration grazing, clipping of western wheatgrass following grazing to achieve levels of utilization equivalent to that of intermediate wheatgrass, irrigation, and removal of the competitor were assessed in terms of the recruitment, longevity, and mortality of ramets of both species. The effects of severance of clonal connections and defoliation on the performance of young shoots of both species were also studied.

The tiller dynamics of the two species differed greatly. Maximum life span of intermediate wheatgrass tillers was approximately 18 months, while that of western wheatgrass tillers exceeded the 3.5-year observation period. Tiller turnover was higher in intermediate wheatgrass than in western wheatgrass. Defoliation tended to increase the mortality risk of intermediate wheatgrass ramets but not that of western wheatgrass ramets. Supplemental water had the opposite effect. Irrigation increased the probability of ramet survival for intermediate wheatgrass during the growing season but led to higher winter mortality for western wheatgrass ramets.

During the four years of this study (1987-1990), western wheatgrass was the competitive dominant species. Recruitment of intermediate wheatgrass ramets at the interface was reduced compared to monospecific stands while that of western wheatgrass was enhanced. The mortality of intermediate wheatgrass tillers increased as a result of competition with western wheatgrass but only when plants were grazed. Competition had little effect on the mortality of western wheatgrass ramets. The competitive ability of intermediate wheatgrass versus western wheatgrass improved when both species were grazed heavily and when plants were irrigated.

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