Great Basin Naturalist


Seedling size and survival in relation to summer drought were examined for Chrysothamnus nauseosus growing under field and greenhouse conditions. In the field, summer survival rates were less than 2% annually for the three years monitored. The effect of initial seedling height on subsequent survival was examined in both the field and greenhouse by grouping seedlings into live and dead categories on each census date and comparing initial heights for seedlings in these categories. For a majority of the census dates, the initial height of surviving seedlings was greater than the initial height of those that subsequently died (significant differences ranged from 1 to 8 mm), indicating that seedlings that were taller at the initiation of the drought period had a higher probability of survival. In the greenhouse, taller seedlings had greater shoot and root biomass and rooting depth. Seedlings that are larger (i.e., taller and have greater aboveground biomass) in late spring appear to have a higher probability of surviving summer drought due to greater rooting depth and hence increased access to moisture in deeper soil layers. Seed availability and safe sites for germination were probably not limiting since large numbers of seedlings successfully germinated in a patchy pattern during the study period. Seedling size and probability of survival were not related to either seedling density or the distance to nearest seedling neighbor. Survival through summer drought appears to be the main limitation to seedling recruitment in this population.