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Zhen Zhang, Lichao Wang, Jing Liu, Zhaorong Dong, Wei Xu and Shiping Wang

Understanding the reproductive response of host plants to herbivores is important in grazing ecology and grassland management. Simulated grazing experiments were conducted to determine the influence of different grazing intensities on reproductive performance of a shrub, Caragana microphylla Lam. The total leaf mass, total flower mass, total flower mass allocation, and single flower mass allocation decreased with increased grazing intensity. The total spine mass, single flower mass and total spine mass allocation increased with increased grazing intensity. The stem mass, stem mass allocation and total leaf mass allocation had not significant change with the increasing grazing intensity. Under heavy grazing treatments, the host plants significantly decreased their investment in reproduction and increased investment in physical defense organs. Although there were no significant differences in the number of ovules among different grazing intensities, herbivory negatively affected reproductive performance, including the number of flowers, the number of pollen grains per flower, the number of ripe seeds and the rate of pod-set in host plants. These results indicate that there are trade-offs among vegetative and reproductive and defensive organs. Compared with male reproduction, female reproductive performance was less sensitive to herbivory and grazing intensity. Moreover, pollen grains from heavily browsed plants seemed to be less likely to sire pods and ripe seeds than those from unbrowsed plants, indicating that herbivory not only decreased pollen production, but also adversely affected pollen performance.