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The role of reproductive plant traits and biotic interactions in the dynamics of semi-arid plant communities

AuthorsPueyo, Yolanda ; Kéfi, Sonia; Díaz-Sierra, R.; Alados, Concepción L. ; Rietkerk, Max
Seed dispersal
Vegetative propagation
Scale-dependent feedback
Issue DateDec-2010
CitationTheoretical population biology 78(4): 289-297 (2010)
AbstractThe dynamics of semi-arid plant communities are determined by the interplay between competition and facilitation among plants. The sign and strength of these biotic interactions depend on plant traits. However, the relationships between plant traits and biotic interactions, and the consequences for plant communities are still poorly understood. Our objective here was to investigate, with a modelling approach, the role of plant reproductive traits on biotic interactions, and the consequences for processes such as plant succession and invasion. The dynamics of two plant types were modelled with a spatially-explicit integrodifferential model: (1) a plant with seed dispersal (colonizer of bare soil) and (2) a plant with local vegetative propagation (local competitor). Both plant types were involved in facilitation due to a local positive feedback between vegetation biomass and soil water availability, which promoted establishment and growth. Plants in the system also competed for limited water. The efficiency in water acquisition (dependent on reproductive and growth plant traits) determined which plant type dominated the community at the steady state. Facilitative interactions between plant types also played an important role in the community dynamics, promoting establishment in the driest conditions and recovery from low biomass. Plants with vegetative propagation took advantage of the ability of seed dispersers to establish on bare soil from a low initial biomass. Seed dispersers were good invaders, maintained high biomass at intermediate and high rainfall and showed a high ability in taking profit from the positive feedback originated by plants with vegetative propagation under the driest conditions. However, seed dispersers lost competitiveness with an increasing investment in fecundity. All together, our results showed that reproductive plant traits can affect the balance between facilitative and competitive interactions. Understanding this effect of plant traits on biotic interactions provides insights in processes such as plant succession and shrub encroachment.
Description9 páginas, 5 figuras, 1 cuadro, 2 tablas.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tpb.2010.09.001
Appears in Collections:(IPE) Artículos
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