TitleFirst come, first served: grasses have a head start on forbs with prompt nutrient patch occupation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsSmilauerova, M, Smilauer, P
JournalPlant and Soil

Graminoids and forbs are important entities in grassland community assembly, differing in their functional properties. In our study, we asked 1. Do graminoids and forbs differ in the speed of root proliferation into soil patches established under field conditions? 2. Is the patch occupation dynamics affected by the nutrient concentration in the patch? 3. What is the temporal dynamics of available macronutrients in an experimental patch and does it provide comparative advantage to any of these two categories in connection with their root proliferation dynamics? We used ingrowth core technique. Proliferated roots were sampled after 1, 2, 4, 8, or 15 weeks, with forb and graminoid categories distinguished on anatomical basis. We measured root length and root dry weight, concentration of NH4+, NO3-, and of exchangeable phosphorus in the soil. Roots of both functional groups proliferated more intensively in enriched soil patches than in the control ones, but graminoids entered experimental patches more rapidly. Soil concetration of available N fell down to the background level in four weeks. The initial head start by graminoids seems to be crucial for the overall patch exploitation, because the concentration of available nutrient forms, namely nitrate and ammonium, decreases rapidly.