Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Natural Resources


Martyn M. Caldwell


The influence of the spatial pattern of foliage removal on regrowth was investigated in the field with a tussock grass, Agropyron desertorum. Tussocks were hand clipped in different spatial patterns that represented extremes of defoliation patterns which could be inflicted by natural herbivores. All defoliated tussocks exhibited increases in specific growth rates following clipping in mid-May. When foliage was removed from the upper portion of the canopy (younger foliage), regrowth rates and season-long aboveground biomass production were less than if the same amount of foliage was removed from low in the canopy (older foliage). The spatial pattern of defoliation also influenced tussock regrowth in a late-May clipping experiment, but differences in the effects of the clipping patterns were associated with the removal of apical meristems rather than with the age or location of foliage removed.

Changes in tussock carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange that were associated with changes in growth following mid-May clipping were explored. All clipped tussocks showed increases in integrated daytime carbon dioxide uptake per unit foliage area after defoliation. Differences among treatments in the response of net daytime carbon gain during the first 24 hours after clipping corresponded well with differences in tussock regrowth over a 14-day period following clipping. Increased carbon gain of clipped tussocks was associated with increases in tussock water vapor conductance and intercellular carbon dioxide concentration, and decreases in the ratio of carbon dioxide uptake to water vapor loss.

Differences among treatments in daytime carbon gain and regrowth were paralleled by the response of instantaneous rates of light-saturated net photosynthesis for entire tussocks. Defoliation increased the proportion of foliage directly illuminated within the tussock at solar noon. Changes in the fraction of sunlit foliage and the relative amounts of different-aged foliage in tussock canopies were correlated with the responses of light-saturated photosynthesis. Thus, the effects of the spatial pattern of foliage removal on canopy light microclimate and the age of remaining foliage had important implications for carbon gain and regrowth of tussocks following mid-May defoliation.