Plant Ecology

, Volume 201, Issue 2, pp 687–697 | Cite as

Estimating plant competition coefficients and predicting community dynamics from non-destructive pin-point data: a case study with Calluna vulgaris and Deschampsia flexuosa

  • Christian DamgaardEmail author
  • Torben Riis-Nielsen
  • Inger Kappel Schmidt


A method is proposed for estimating plant competition coefficients and predicting the dynamics of herb and grassland plant communities from non-destructive pin-point measurements. The method is applied to inter-specific competition in a natural heathland community with relatively few interacting species. The study shows that the dynamics of the heathland plant community may be thought of as essentially a two-species system of Calluna vulgaris and Deschampsia flexuosa. There were significant competitive interactions between C. vulgaris and D. flexuosa. D. flexuosa affected both the cover and compactness of C. vulgaris individuals as a function of the compactness the previous year, whereas C. vulgaris significantly affected only the compactness of D. flexuosa. There was a significant negative effect of drought on the compactness of both C. vulgaris and D. flexuosa individuals, whereas night warming had no significant effects on either species. The predicted long-term outcome of the competitive interaction between C. vulgaris and D. flexuosa was that of unstable equilibrium, where the more dominant of the two will outcompete the other. However, when both species are found at relatively high plant covers the two species are predicted to co-exist for a long time period relatively to the time scale of the ageing process of C. vulgaris. Direct analyses of the inter-specific competitive interactions in natural plant communities with non-destructive measurements can provide important new insight into the processes that determine the composition of plant communities.


Heathland Plant competition model Point-intercept Succession 



The project was funded by EU under the projects CLIMOOR (Contract ENV4-CT97-0694) and VULCAN (Contract EVK2-CT-2000-00094) and the participating research institutes and to Risø National Laboratory, Denmark. Further information about the project can be found on Thanks to Rasmus Ejrnæs, Beate Strandberg, Morten Strandberg, Jacob Weiner, and an anonymous reviewer for commenting on a previous version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Damgaard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Torben Riis-Nielsen
    • 2
  • Inger Kappel Schmidt
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Terrestrial EcologyNERI, University of AarhusSilkeborgDenmark
  2. 2.Applied Ecology, Forest & LandscapeUniversity of CopenhagenHorsholmDenmark

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