Biomass allocation in a subantarctic clonal plant (Acaena magellanica) under grazing by introduced reindeer
Biomass allocation and growth by the clonal plant Acaena magellanica were characterized for three populations grazed by introduced reindeer on the subantarctic island of South Georgia. Annual growth markers (internode lengths) were used to divide each rhizome into current year’s shoots, one-year-old and two-year-old rhizome segments. Total dry weights were significantly smaller in grazed than in ungrazed populations. Leaf biomass of current year’s shoots was very much lower in grazed shoots. Rhizome length and number of leaves were less affected than dry weight by grazing, and the reindeer grazing thus seems to mainly influence biomass accumulation rather than morphology in Acaena. Interactions with Festuca contracta in both grazed and ungrazed areas were also studied in a two-year competition experiment. No apparent release of soil resources (as measured by an increase in plant growth) was apparent in plots where Festuca was removed, but the current year’s shoots of Acaena were smaller and more numerous in these plots than in controls, especially in the ungrazed area.