Plant Ecology

, Volume 176, Issue 1, pp 69–78 | Cite as

Analysis of interspecific competition in perennial plants using Life Table Response Experiments

Article

Abstract

The impact of interspecific competition is usually measured by its effect upon plant growth, neglecting impacts upon other stages of the life cycle such as fecundity which have a direct influence upon individual fitness and the asymptotic population growth rate of a population (λ). We used parameterized matrix models for three perennial plant species grown with and without interspecific competition to illustrate how the methodology of Life Table Response Experiments (LTRE) can be used to link any change in population dynamics to changes in any part of the life cycle. Plants were herbaceous grassland species grown for two years in a field experiment at Rothamsted Experimental Station, England. Interspecific competition reduced λ by over 90% in all species. Survival and growth were slightly affected by competition whereas plant fecundity was greatly reduced. Nearly all of the observed difference in λ between the competition treatments was explained by the fecundity terms, and more precisely by a large difference in the number of seeds, and a high sensitivity of λ to the germination rate. Whereas most competition studies focus on the measurement of change in individual fitness, our study illustrates how informative it is to take account not only of the effect of competition upon vital rates but also of how different vital rates affect population growth rate.

Keywords

Interspecific competition Lower-level vital rates LTRE analysis Plant demography 

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecology and Evolution Research Group, Department of Biological SciencesOpen UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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