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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of disturbance in permanent pastures Parish, Roberta


This thesis investigates how small disturbances influence community structure in three permanent pastures. Small disturbances play an important role in providing spatial heterogeneity that permits new recruits to enter populations in closed sward communities, thereby promoting diversity and species co-existence. The thesis has four components: the first two are based on observation and measurement of the occurrence of small disturbances, molehills and dung pats, in three pastures. Within pasture seasonal changes in disturbance regime were related to changes in patterns of species abundance by multidimensional contingency table analysis. Dactylis glomerata, Agropyron repens and Taraxacum officinale increased in highly disturbed plots, whereas Holcus lanatus and Trifolium repens decreased. Invasion of molehills and dung pats was usually by rhizomes or stolons from surrounding plants. Seedling recruitment was rare: Trifolium repens was the only species dependent on small gaps for sexual regeneration. Patterns of species replacement on and around the disturbances were non-random. The third part of the thesis investigated the effects of selective removal of Lolium perenne, Holcus lanatus and Trifolium repens from the oldest and youngest pastures. Strong responses to the removal of these species were found only in grasses in the youngest pasture. This is consistent with the hypothesis that competition decreases over time because of niche divergence, but may also reflect biological accommodation to grazing pressure. The fourth part of the thesis investigated changes in species composition in simulated swards in response to different regimes of mowing, fertilizer and small gap creation. Species composition was strongly influenced by mowing and fertilization but was unresponsive to small gap creation.

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