Abstract. Morpho‐fimctional features of perennial grasses in South American savannas are considered as adaptive strategies to cope with stress and disturbance factors of savanna environments. The tussock growth form, annual patterns of vegetative growth and reproductive phenology, allocation of carbon and nutrients, and accumulation of standing dead phytomass at the end of the dry season, are discussed in relation to water economy, resistance to drought, photosynthetic rates, growth rhythms, regrowth after drought and fire, seasonal translocation of critical nutrients and carbohydrates, and the total nutrient budget of the grass layer. Different strategies combining various morphological patterns, phenological alternatives and mechanisms for resisting drought and fire exist within the grass flora of each savanna community. The lack of adaptive responses to grazing by large herbivores is a major distinction from African savanna grasses. Many African grasses, either introduced in pastures or colonizing disturbed savannas, do show positive responses to defoliation, including compensatory growth and enhanced photosynthetic rates. Some guidelines for further research are suggested in order to disclose the mechanisms underlying this different behaviour of native and introduced savanna grasses.
Journal of Vegetation Science – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 1992
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