Importance of belowground herbivory

pocket gophers may limit aspen to rock outcrop refugia

L. F. Cantor, Thomas G Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Thomomys bottae may represent keystone herbivores in slowing down or preventing Populus tremuloides invasion of mountain meadows in N Arizona. Observations at the edge of 3 aspen clones bordering meadows showed that where pocket gopher disturbance was relatively low (0.70 mounds/m2) aspen mortality was <20%, but where disturbance was high (5.6 mounds/m2), aspen mortality increased to 90%. Aspen release from pocket gopher herbivory on roots was rapid; for the single replicate monitored only 4 mo after the initial removal of pocket gophers, aspen survival increased to a value 3.5 times, vegetative reproduction 2.5 times, and average tree growth rates 3 times that of the control. Aspens thus might be limited to rock outcrops that are largely inaccessible to pocket gophers and act as refugia from belowground herbivory. Consistent with this hypothesis, in 32 aspen-meadow associations, distributions of aspens and pocket gophers were nonoverlapping 93% of the time. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-970
Number of pages9
JournalEcology
Volume70
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989

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refugium
refuge habitats
herbivory
meadow
outcrop
herbivores
rocks
meadows
rock
vegetative reproduction
disturbance
mortality
Thomomys bottae
clone
herbivore
Populus tremuloides
mountain
tree growth
mountains
clones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Importance of belowground herbivory : pocket gophers may limit aspen to rock outcrop refugia. / Cantor, L. F.; Whitham, Thomas G.

In: Ecology, Vol. 70, No. 4, 1989, p. 962-970.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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