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Competition between Australian native and introduced grasses along a nutrient gradient

Authors

  • R. H. GROVES,

    Corresponding author
    1. 1 CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia (Email: richard.groves@csiro.au) and 2CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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  • 1 M. P. AUSTIN,

    1. 1 CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia (Email: richard.groves@csiro.au) and 2CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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  • and 2 P. E. KAYE 1

    1. 1 CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia (Email: richard.groves@csiro.au) and 2CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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    • Present address: Environment Australia, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.


*Corresponding author.

Abstract

Abstract  Seven grass species were grown in monocultures and in multispecies mixtures along a gradient of total nutrient levels that ranged from 1/64 to 16× the normal level of nutrient solution. The seven grasses represented three ecological groups: (i) three perennial species native to Australia (Themeda triandra, Poa labillardieri and Danthonia carphoides); (ii) two introduced annuals (Vulpia bromoides and Hordeum leporinum); and (iii) two introduced perennials (Lolium perenne and Dactylis glomerata). We hypothesized that the native grasses would prove less competitive when grown at increased nutrient levels than those introduced from Europe. Results supported the hypothesis. The native species were unable to compete in mixtures even at the lowest nutrient level, where T. triandra was the most productive species in monoculture. Lolium perenne and Dactylis glomerata dominated mixtures at intermediate nutrient levels. The responses of the annual introduced grasses differed in that Vulpia bromoides showed an optimum at intermediate nutrient levels in both monoculture and in mixtures, whereas Hordeum leporinum dominated at the highest nutrient levels in mixture but was suppressed by V. bromoides, L. perenne and D. glomerata at intermediate levels. The results are discussed in terms of predicting species responses in mixtures from their performance in monocultures as well as in terms of previous observations on the sequential changes in botanical composition of south-eastern Australian grasslands after 150 years of continuous grazing by sheep.

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