, Volume 11, Issue 12, pp 2177-2187

Intra-generic competition among Nothofagus in New Zealand's primary indigenous forests

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Abstract

Competitive interactions between New Zealand's four Nothofagus or southern beech species were analysed using an extensive dataset describing the composition of natural forests, supplemented by environmental estimates describing both climate and landform. Using multiple regression models of progressively increasing complexity, the analysis first accounted for variation in tree abundance attributable to both environment and regional-scale distributional disjunctions of likely historic origin. Intra-generic competition, expressed as variation in tree abundance dependent on the presence or absence of each congener, was then assessed by adding (1) simple terms to assess the magnitude of gross changes in abundance, and (2) interaction terms to assess variation in abundance along the dominant temperature gradient given different competitive contexts. Results indicate the presence of substantial intra-generic interactions, with simple interaction terms giving marginal increases in explained deviance equal to that explained by initial regressions using environment alone. Addition of interaction terms brought about smaller improvements in model fit, but confirm that variation in abundance along the dominant annual temperature gradient is strongly influenced by the competitive context provided by the remaining congeners. Such results are consistent with current understanding of the niche concept, and underline the difficulty inherent in using current species limits to predict likely changes in species distributions consequent on global warming.