, Volume 160, Issue 4, pp 747–755

Competition, traits and resource depletion in plant communities


    • CNRS, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175
  • Eric Garnier
    • CNRS, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175
  • Jérémie Lecoeur
    • Montpellier SupAgro, UMR Laboratoire d’Ecophysiologie des Plantes sous Stress Environnementaux
  • Catherine Roumet
    • CNRS, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175
  • Cécile Podeur
    • CNRS, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175
  • Alain Blanchard
    • CNRS, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175
  • Marie-Laure Navas
    • Montpellier SupAgro, UMR 5175 Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive
Community Ecology - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-009-1333-x

Cite this article as:
Violle, C., Garnier, E., Lecoeur, J. et al. Oecologia (2009) 160: 747. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1333-x


Although of primary importance to explain plant community structure, general relationships between plant traits, resource depletion and competitive outcomes remain to be quantified across species. Here, we used a comparative approach to test whether instantaneous measurements of plant traits can capture both the amount of resources depleted under plant cover over time (competitive effect) and the way competitors perceived this resource depletion (competitive response). We performed a large competition experiment in which phytometers from a single grass species were transplanted within 18 different monocultures grown in a common-garden experiment, with a time-integrative quantification of light and water depletion over the phytometers’ growing season. Resource-capturing traits were measured on both phytometers (competitive response traits) and monocultures (competitive effect traits). The total amounts of depleted light and water availabilities over the season strongly differed among monocultures; they were best estimated by instantaneous measurements of height and rooting depth, respectively, performed when either light or water became limiting. Specific leaf area and leaf water potential, two competitive response traits measured at the leaf level, were good predictors of changes in phytometer performance under competition, and reflected the amount of light and water, respectively, perceived by plants throughout their lifespan. Our results demonstrated the relevance of instantaneous measures of plant traits as indicators of resource depletion over time, validating the trait-based approach for competition ecology.


Competitive responseCompetitive effectPhytometerPlant functional traitResource competition

Supplementary material

442_2009_1333_MOESM1_ESM.doc (50 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 50 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009