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Title: Competition from below for light and nutrients shifts productivity among tropical species
Author: Ewel, J. J.; Mazzarino, M. J.;
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105(48): 18836-18841
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Chance events such as seed dispersal determine the potential composition of plant communities, but the eventual assemblage is determined in large part by subsequent interactions among species. Postcolonization sorting also affects the ultimate composition of communities assembled by people for restoration, horticulture, or conservation. Thus, knowledge of the mechanisms controlling interspecific interactions in plant communities is important for explaining patterns observed in nature and predicting success or failure of utilitarian combinations. Relationships among species, especially those from studies of biological diversity and ecosystem functioning, are largely based on studies of short-lived, temperate-zone plants. Extrapolation to perennial plants in the humid tropics is risky because functional relationships among large-stature species change with time. Shifts in competitive relationships among 3 life forms--trees, palms, and perennial herbs--occurred during 13 yr in experimental tropical ecosystems. In 2 cases the novel competitive mechanism responsible for the shift was reduction in crown volume, and therefore light-capturing capability, of overtopping deciduous trees by intrusive growth from below a palm. In a third case, complementary resource use developed between 2 evergreen life forms (overstory tree and palm), probably because of differential nutrient acquisition. Species-level traits and adequate time for shifts in interspecific relationships to emerge are crucial for predicting community trajectories.
Keywords: complementarity, diversity, ecosystem functioning, fertile soil, plant competition
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Ewel, J. J.; Mazzarino, M. J. 2008. Competition from below for light and nutrients shifts productivity among tropical species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105(48): 18836-18841.
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