Summer dormancy and seasonal growth in California perennial grasses

Superior drought survival is expected to result in reduced productivity and competitive ability, but this expectation has seldom been tested in herbaceous perennial species. Balachowski et al. quantified seasonal growth, functional traits, and drought survival strategies in eight California perennial grasses.

Nassella pulchra
NPS photo from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California, USA. Image: Wikipedia

Contrary to common assumptions, they found that summer dormancy, an adaptation to Mediterranean-type climates, was associated with greater springtime productivity and more competitive functional traits. The authors conclude that, because summer dormancy confers greater functional similarity to exotic annual species currently invading California grasslands, native summer dormant taxa may play an increasingly important ecological role in the future of these ecosystems.

Further reading

Jennifer A. Balachowski, Pauline M. Bristiel, Florence A. Volaire, 2016, 'Summer dormancy, drought survival and functional resource acquisition strategies in California perennial grasses', Annals of Botany, vol. 118, no. 2, pp. 357-368