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Intraspecific competition replaces interspecific facilitation as abiotic stress decreases: The shifting nature of plant-plant interactions

AuthorsGarcía-Cervigón, Ana I.; Gazol Burgos, Antonio ; Sanz, Virginia; Camarero, Jesús Julio ; Olano Mendoza, José Miguel
Issue Date2013
CitationPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 15: 226- 236 (2013)
AbstractPlant-plant interactions change depending on environmental conditions, shifting from competition to facilitation when the stress is high. In addition to these changes, the relevance of intraspecific compared to interspecific interactions may also shift as abiotic stress does. We inferred intra- and interspecific plant-plant interactions of the cushion plant Hormathophylla spinosa as related to the dominant shrub Juniperus sabina in two sites with contrasting abiotic conditions (a slope with high-stress conditions vs. a valley bottom with milder conditions) in a Mediterranean high mountain. Specifically, we studied the spatial patterns and several variables related to plant performance (plant size and form, non-structural carbohydrate - NSC - concentrations and radial growth) of H. spinosa.The spatial pattern varied depending on site conditions. H. spinosa plants were positively associated with juniper in the high-stress slope site, probably through higher establishment rates due to the amelioration of soil conditions. In contrast, in the milder valley site H. spinosa establishment occurred mostly in open areas. Age structure, inferred from annual rings, reflected a massive establishment event in the whole study area which occurred 30-50 years ago. Canopy variables and radial growth were density dependent: both were negatively affected by the high density of H. spinosa individuals in the valley, but favoured by junipers on the slope. Interestingly, NSCs showed the opposite pattern, suggesting lower investment in growth by H. spinosa plants in the valley than on the slope.Our results reinforce the strong links existing between intra- and interspecific relationships and the need to include both when studying the influence of abiotic conditions on plant-plant interactions. This approach enabled us to detect that the direction and intensity of plant-plant interactions may shift at different ecological levels. Particularly interesting was the finding that optimal sites at the population level may not necessarily be the sites showing maximum individual performance. © 2013 Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2013.04.001
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.ppees.2013.04.001
issn: 1433-8319
Appears in Collections:(IPE) Artículos
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