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Competition Intensity along a Productivity Gradient in a Low‐Diversity Grassland

Duane A. Peltzer, Scott D. Wilson and Ann K. Gerry
The American Naturalist
Vol. 151, No. 5 (May 1998), pp. 465-476
DOI: 10.1086/286133
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/286133
Page Count: 12
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Competition Intensity along a Productivity Gradient in a Low‐Diversity Grassland
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Competition among plants often shifts from roots to shoots as productivity increases and species composition changes. We examined competition in an old field with low diversity to test whether this shift occurred along a productivity gradient without species turnover. Forty plots received one of four nitrogen treatments ( \documentclass{aastex} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{bm} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{pifont} \usepackage{stmaryrd} \usepackage{textcomp} \usepackage{portland,xspace} \usepackage{amsmath,amsxtra} \usepackage[OT2,OT1]{fontenc} \newcommand\cyr{ \renewcommand\rmdefault{wncyr} \renewcommand\sfdefault{wncyss} \renewcommand\encodingdefault{OT2} \normalfont \selectfont} \DeclareTextFontCommand{\textcyr}{\cyr} \pagestyle{empty} \DeclareMathSizes{10}{9}{7}{6} \begin{document} \landscape $0,\,5,\,or\,15\,g\,added\,N\,m^{- 2}\,yr^{- 1}\,or\,400\,g\,m^{- 2}\,yr^{- 1}\,of\,sawdust\,added\,to\,immobilize\,N$ \end{document} ) annually for 5 yr. All N levels were dominated by the perennial grasses Agropyron cristatum and Bromus inermis. Transplants of Agropyron were grown with all neighbors, roots of neighbors, or no neighbors present to measure total, root, and shoot competition. Transplant growth was 22%–165% higher in subplots without neighbors present, which indicates that competition occurred. Competition from neighbor roots was primarily responsible for suppression of transplant growth over the entire productivity gradient. In contrast to previous field experiments that found either an increase in total competition intensity or a shift from root to shoot competition with increasing productivity, we found neither. Increases in total competition intensity or shifts from root to shoot competition found along other gradients may be caused by changes in species composition and not by increased resources or neighbor biomass. These results suggest that different competitive mechanisms may operate in low‐diversity vegetation than in more diverse natural vegetation.

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