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Competition for soil water between perennial bunch-grass and blue oak seedlings

Competition for soil water between perennial bunch-grass and blue oak seedlings

Agroforestry Systems 32(3): 225-235

The competition effects of the perennial bunch-grass (Elymus glaucus B.B.) on the growth and survival of the oak seedlings (Quercus douglasii H. and A.) were investigated. There were four levels of Elymus competition, replicated three times. The three densities of Elymus employed were zero (control), 50 (Low - 'L' -), 116 (Medium - 'M' -) and 199 (High - 'H' -) plants m-2. Rates of soil water depletion, stomata) conductance, transpiration, shoot elongation and leaf expansion rates were measured between 23 March and 26 May 1988. Rates of soil water depletion, stomatal conductance and transpiration differed amongst the treatments and were higher in the control for the duration of the experiment. Shoot elongation rate (SER) and leaf expansion rate (LER) of blue oak seedling were directly related to soil water potentials. Zero values of LER rates for all treatments were observed at soil water potentials lower than -1.91 MPa, and concurrent reductions of stomatal conductance indicated stomatal closure due to the soil water deficit. In the control treatment, transpiration alone was not high enough to deplete soil moisture and to reduce LER of the oak seedlings. Leaf dessication occurred first in the H and M treatments (53% of seedlings dessicated) and two weeks later in the L treatment (37% dessicated) when the soil water potential was approximately -4.0 MPa. The number of reproductive tillers and seed dry weight indicated that Elymus plants were under water stress from April 25 and concluded on May 25 with an early summer dormancy in all treatments. Data indicated that light intensity of 50% of ambient did not limit the development of oak seedlings. The results suggested that density of the perennial bunch-grass Elymus glaucus lower than 50 plants m-2 could allow survival and successful establishment of blue oak in understories.

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