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Response of a Grassland Cactus to Frequency and Size of Rainfall Events in a North American Shortgrass Steppe

R. L. Dougherty, W. K. Lauenroth and J. S. Singh
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 84, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 177-183
DOI: 10.2307/2261353
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2261353
Page Count: 7
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Response of a Grassland Cactus to Frequency and Size of Rainfall Events in a North American Shortgrass Steppe
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Abstract

1 Field experiments were conducted to define the types of rainfall that most effectively contribute to the water resource of a grassland cactus, Opuntia polyacantha in a shortgrass steppe. 2 The study indicated that O. polyacantha is capable of responding to rain events as small as 2.5 cm although a 10-mm event has considerably more value than a 2.5-mm or a 5-mm event. 3 Water content of the cladodes was closely related to recent rainfall, and shoot growth was greatly influenced by cladode water content. 4 Results indicate that this cactus utilizes small rainfall events (2.5-5 mm), and that its success in the short term depends more on the frequency of usable rain than on rain amount.

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