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Forests 2017, 8(1), 6; doi:10.3390/f8010006

Resource Limitations Influence Growth and Vigor of Idaho Fescue, a Common Understory Species in Pacific Northwest Ponderosa Pine Forests

1
Department of Animal and Range Sciences, Montana State University, PO Box 172900, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA
2
Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, 112 Withycombe Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Brian J. Palik and Timothy A. Martin
Received: 13 October 2016 / Revised: 30 November 2016 / Accepted: 16 December 2016 / Published: 22 December 2016
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Abstract

Alterations in under-canopy resource availability associated with elevated ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl.) abundance can negatively influence understory vegetation. Experimental evidence linking under-canopy resource availability and understory vegetation is scarce. Yet this information would be beneficial in developing management strategies to recover desired understory species. We tested the effects of varying nitrogen (N) and light availability on Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer), the dominant understory species in ponderosa pine/Idaho fescue plant associations in eastern Oregon. In a greenhouse experiment, two levels of N (50 kg∙N∙ha−1 and 0 kg∙N∙ha−1) and shade (80% shade and 0% shade) were applied in a split-plot design to individual potted plants grown in soil collected from high abundance pine stands. Plants grown in unshaded conditions produced greater root (p = 0.0027) and shoot (p = 0.0017) biomass and higher cover values (p = 0.0378) compared to those in the shaded treatments. The addition of N had little effect on plant growth (p = 0.1602, 0.5129, and 0.0853 for shoot biomass, root biomass, and cover, respectively), suggesting that soils in high-density ponderosa pine stands that lack understory vegetation were not N deficient and Idaho fescue plants grown in these soils were not N limited. Management activities that increase under-canopy light availability will promote the conditions necessary for Idaho fescue recovery. However, successful restoration may be constrained by a lack of residual fescue or the invasion of more competitive understory vegetation. View Full-Text
Keywords: ponderosa pine; Idaho fescue; overstory-understory interactions; nitrogen; light availability ponderosa pine; Idaho fescue; overstory-understory interactions; nitrogen; light availability
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Carr, C.A.; Krueger, W.C. Resource Limitations Influence Growth and Vigor of Idaho Fescue, a Common Understory Species in Pacific Northwest Ponderosa Pine Forests. Forests 2017, 8, 6.

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