, Volume 159, Issue 4, pp 817–825 | Cite as

Differential impacts of plant interactions on herbaceous species recruitment: disentangling factors controlling emergence, survival and growth of seedlings

  • Adeline FayolleEmail author
  • Cyrille Violle
  • Marie-Laure Navas
Community Ecology - Original Paper


Recruitment is a crucial event in the plant life cycle that is very sensitive to interaction with established vegetation. Based on a large comparative experiment, we tested the hypothesis that the components of recruitment––emergence time and rate, seedling survival and biomass––differ in response to plant–plant interactions during recruitment. The consequences for the population are predicted with a simple demographic model assessing the response of seed production. In a common garden experiment, we recorded the recruitment of four target species in an individual-based survey protocol. A total of 7,680 seeds were sown within 20 neighbourhoods, consisting of 19 mono-specific herbaceous stands and a control treatment without vegetation. We measured transmitted light, temperature and moisture at soil surface to characterise the environmental conditions within neighbourhoods. The mean height of neighbours controlled temperature buffering and light interception and thus depicted the interaction gradient. Emergence rate and time increased with neighbour height in two of the four target species, while seedling survival and biomass significantly decreased with neighbour height in three and all four target species, respectively. We recorded a shift in seedling neighbour interactions under the tallest neighbours that largely favoured emergence but strongly depressed seedling survival and biomass. The components of recruitment were predicted to differ in their impact on later adult performance. Biomass strongly contributed to predicted seed production in three target species, and emergence had an equal or greater impact on a fourth species. These results confirm the fundamental role of plant–plant interactions in the recruitment of herbaceous species through a complex combination of habitat amelioration, which facilitates emergence and light competition, which in turn limits seedling survival and biomass.


Competition Facilitation Seedling emergence Seedling growth Seedling survival 



The experiment conducted complied with French law. The authors are grateful to J. Richarte, E. Martinez, S. Villéger, C. Collin, J. Devaux, A. Blanchard and D. Degueldre for field assistance. They sincerely thank the ECOPAR group and O. Gimenez of the CEFE CNRS, M. Franco and an anonymous referee for their helpful comments and advice on earlier drafts of the manuscript. A.F. thanks A. Patry for help and encouragement throughout this project and invaluable corrections. This is a publication from the GEOTRAITS project (French National Programme ECCO-PNBC).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adeline Fayolle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cyrille Violle
    • 1
  • Marie-Laure Navas
    • 2
  1. 1.CNRS, UMR Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (UMR 5175)Montpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Montpellier SupAgro, UMR Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et EvolutiveMontpellier Cedex 1France

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