Processes Controlling Blue Grama Production on the Shortgrass Prairie

  • James K. Detling
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 32)


The dominant grass of the shortgrass prairie of North America is blue grama [Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag. ex Steud.], a warm-season perennial species with the C4 photosynthetic pathway (Williams and Markley 1973). At the Pawnee site in north-central Colorado, C4 grasses account for over 40% of the annual aboveground net primary production (ANP) of from 59–182 grams dry matter · m-2 · yr-1 (Table 2.1) and over 80% of the total grass production. Perennial coolseason or C3 grasses, principally western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii) and needle and thread grass (Stipa comata), contribute only about 10% of ANP. Most of the remaining ANP is accounted for by the C3 shrubs, fringed sage (Artemisia frigida) and snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), which contribute approximately 40%, while forbs as a group generally constitute less than 10% of the ANP. While Chapters 3 and 4 deal with total herbage biomass or production at the Pawnee site, this chapter concentrates on primary production processes in blue grama grass because of its dominance.


Soil Water Potential Carbon Dioxide Exchange Belowground Organ Leaf Elongation Rate Blue Grama 
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© Spriger-Verlag New York Inc. 1979

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  • James K. Detling

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