Water relations of a perennial grass and seedling vs adult woody plants in a subtropical savanna, Texas

J. R. Brown, S. Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Over 52±16% (Mean ±SE) of the seeds of the arborescent legume Prosopis gladulosa var. glandulosa germinated within 2 wk of dissemination in plots dominated by a perennial grass (Chloris cucullata) in July 1984 and 63±7% of those germinating survived through September 1985. Over 60% of the herbaceous root biomass occurred in the upper 30 cm of soil. In contrast, tap roots of Prosopis seedlings had penetrated beyond 40 cm within 4 months of germination and their mean proportion of total biomass belowground increased from 0.27±0.09 in May to 0.52±0.15 in August. Net photosynthesis (Pn) and conductance (g) of Chloris were closely coupled to fluctuations in moisture in the upper soil horizons (<30 cm), whereas Pn and g of 1-yr-old P. gladulosa seedlings were correlated with soil moisture at depths between 30-90 cm. Among mature Prosopis plants, Pn and g varied as a function of soil moisture at depths >90 cm. Rapid development of roots of Prosopis seedlings during their first year of growth apparently enhanced survival by enabling them to access soil moisture beyond the zone effectively utilized by grasses. On sites with a history of grazing, competition for water from herbaceous vegetation may not play a significant role in limiting establishment of P. glandulosa seedlings or the growth of mature plants in most years. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-374
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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