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Plant Ecology

, Volume 215, Issue 8, pp 927–935 | Cite as

Population dynamics in canopy gaps: nonlinear response to variable light regimes by an understory plant

  • Sara E. Scanga
Article

Abstract

Gap-dependent species are typically understood to have higher population growth rates (λs) when they are exposed to higher light transmittance. I investigated the relationship between both diffuse light and direct light transmittance and λ for the gap-dependent plant Trollius laxus using 5 years of data from 20 subpopulations (11 in created, experimental canopy gaps; 9 in intact canopy control areas). There was a nonlinear (unimodal) relationship between diffuse light and λ for T. laxus under the wide range of light levels encountered at the gap and control subpopulations [4–58 % diffuse photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD)]. There was no relationship between direct light and λ. However, in the gaps, where light levels were generally greater than 20 % PPFD, both diffuse light and direct light had strong negative linear relationships with λ. Therefore, under wide-ranging light regimes, plant populations may show complicated, nonlinear responses to gap formation. Furthermore, gap-dependent plant populations may even decline in the brightest gaps. These results demonstrate that future studies on forest plant population dynamics should strive to include populations from a wide variety of light regimes, and avoid broadly categorizing light regimes as simply “gap” or “non-gap.”

Keywords

Demographic change Gap-dependent species Matrix population models Plant population and community dynamics Rich fen Woodland herbs 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank J. P. Gibbs, K. L. Hajek, E. B. Harper, T. R. Horton, K. N. Jones, D. J. Leopold, S. V. Stehman, and several anonymous reviewers who improved the manuscript with their comments. I also thank Utica College for providing funding that supported the development of this publication.

Supplementary material

11258_2014_344_MOESM1_ESM.doc (175 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 175 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUtica CollegeUticaUSA

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