Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary Introduced African grasses are invading the grasslands of the Venezuelan savannas and displacing the native grasses. This work, which is part of a program to understand the reasons for the success of the African grasses, specifically investigates whether introduced and native grasses differ in some photosynthetic characteristics. The responses to photon flux density, leaf temperature, leaf-air vapour pressure difference and leaf water potential of leaf photosynthetic rate of two introduced African C4 grasses (Hyparrhenia rufa and Melinis minutiflora) and of a lowland and a highland population of a native Venezuelan grass (Trachypogon plumosus) grown under controlled conditions were compared. These responses in all three species were typical of tropical C4 pasture grasses. The introduced grasses had higher maximum leaf conductance, net photosynthetic rates, and optimum temperature (H. rufa only) for photosynthesis than T. plumosus. However, T. plumosus was able to continue photosynthesis to lower leaf water potentials than the two introduced grasses, and the efficiency which it utilized water, light and mineral nutrients to fix carbon were similar to those of the introduced grasses. The higher rates of leaf photosynthesis of the introduced grasses contributed to, but only partially explained, the higher growth rates compared to T. plumosus. The higher growth rates and nutrient concentration of the introduced grasses are consistent with their ability to establish rapidly, compete successfully for resources, and displace T. plumosus from moist, fertile sites. Conversely, the slower growth rate, lower nutrient concentrations, and superior water relations characteristics are consistent with the capacity of T. plumosus to resist invasion by introduced grasses in poorer sites.
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