Effects of long-term protection from grazing on phenotypic expression in geographically separated mountain rough fescue populations.

Thompson, D.J. and Willms, W.D. (2014). "Effects of long-term protection from grazing on phenotypic expression in geographically separated mountain rough fescue populations.", Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 94(1), pp. 33-39. doi : 10.4141/cjps2013-181  Access to full text

Abstract

Whether or not long-term grazing or protection from grazing alters the genetic makeup of grass populations has been debated. Mountain rough fescue [(Festuca campestris (Rydb.)], which is highly sensitive to summer grazing, and becomes dominant in plant communities with long-term protection, was chosen to address this question. Plants from three geographic sites (Stavely in AB, Milroy in the Kootenay trench, BC and Goose Lake on the BC interior plateau) with divergent grazing histories were vegetatively propagated from tillers. Daughter plants were planted into two field nurseries (at Kamloops, BC, and Stavely, AB) and morphological measurements were taken in two field seasons post-establishment. Plants from all three populations were taller, flowered earlier, and were more productive at the Kamloops nursery site. Of the three geographic sources, plants from the Goose Lake site were most distinct with narrower leaves, later flowering, and greater yield. Plants with a long history of grazing had slightly shorter fertile tillers and leaves than plants with a history of long-term protection.

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