Herbaceous production in South India-limiting factors and implications for large herbivores

Ahrestani, F.S.; Heitkonig, I.M.A.; Prins, H.H.T.


This study's goal was to better understand the growth pattern and limitations of the herbaceous production that supports South India's rich large herbivore grazer assemblage. We conducted a fully factorial nitrogen and water (three levels each) treatment field experiment in the herbivore rich South Indian Western Ghats region to determine the seasonal pattern and the extent to which nitrogen and water availability limit herbaceous production. Graminoid production was found to be nitrogen limited. Despite low rainfall, additional water did not significantly increase overall biomass production nor extend growth in the dry season. Accumulated standing biomass was highest in the late wet season (November) and lowest in the dry season (May). Leaf nitrogen was highest in the early wet season (June) and lowest in the late dry season (March). Grazing had a positive effect on grass production by extending the growing season. Biomass production and graminoid leaf nitrogen concentration levels in the study area were similar to other tropical areas in the world. Also similar to other tropical large herbivore areas, the dry season poses an annual challenge for large herbivores in the study area -particularly the smaller bodied species-to satisfy their nutrient requirements.