Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 11, Issue 12, pp 2177–2187

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

  • J.R. Leathwick


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.

Competitive interaction Environment Facilitation Forest Inter-specific Mutualism Niche 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aarssen L.W. and Epp G.A. 1990. Neighbour manipulations in natural vegetation: a review. Journal of Vegetation Science 1: 13–30.Google Scholar
  2. Austin M.P. and Meyers J.A. 1996. Current approaches to modelling the environmental niche of eucalypts: implications for management of forest biodiversity. Forest Ecology and Management 85: 95–106.Google Scholar
  3. Austin M.P. and Smith T.M. 1989. A new model for the continuum concept. Vegetatio 83: 35–47.Google Scholar
  4. Baylis G.T.S. 1980. Mycorrhizas and the spread of beech. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 3: 151–153.Google Scholar
  5. Borcard D. and Legendre P. 1994. Environmental control and spatial structure in ecological communities: an example using oribatid mites (Acari, Oribatei). Environmental and Ecological Statistics 1: 37–61.Google Scholar
  6. Burrows C.J. 1990. Processes of Vegetation Change. Unwin Hyman, Boston, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  7. Callaway R.M. 1995. Positive interactions among plants. Botanical Review 61: 306–349.Google Scholar
  8. Davis M.B. 1989. Lags in vegetation response to greenhouse warming. Climatic Change 15: 75–82.Google Scholar
  9. Hastie T. and Tibshirani R.J. 1990. Generalized Additive Models. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  10. Hutchinson G.E. 1957. Concluding remarks. Cold Spring Harbour Symposia on Quantitative Biology 22: 415–427.Google Scholar
  11. Keddy P.A. 1989. Competition. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  12. Keddy P.A. 1992. Assembly and response rules: two goals for predictive community ecology. Journal of Vegetation Science 3: 157–164.Google Scholar
  13. Landsberg J.J. 1986. Physiological Ecology of Forest Production. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  14. Leathwick J.R. 1995. Climatic relationships of some New Zealand forest tree species. Journal of Vegetation Science 6: 237–248.Google Scholar
  15. Leathwick J.R. 1998. Are New Zealand's Nothofagus species in equilibrium with their environment? Journal of Vegetation Science 9: 719–732.Google Scholar
  16. Leathwick J.R. and Austin M.P. 2001. Competitive interactions between tree species in New Zealand's old-growth indigenous forests. Ecology 82: 2560–2573.Google Scholar
  17. Leathwick J.R. and Mitchell N.D. 1992. Forest pattern, climate and vulcanism in central North Island, New Zealand. Journal of Vegetation Science 3: 603–616.Google Scholar
  18. Leathwick J.R. and Stephens R.T.T. 1998. Climate surfaces for New Zealand. Landcare Research Contract Report LC9798/126.Google Scholar
  19. Leathwick J.R. and Whitehead D. 2001. Soil and atmospheric water deficits, and the distributions of New Zealand's indigenous tree species. Functional Ecology 15: 233–242.Google Scholar
  20. Leathwick J.R., Whitehead D. and McLeod M. 1996. Predicting changes in the composition of New Zealand's indigenous forests in response to global warming: a modelling approach. Environmental Software 11: 81–90.Google Scholar
  21. McGlone M.S. 1985. Plant biogeography and the late Cenozoic history of New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany 23: 723–749.Google Scholar
  22. McGlone M.S., Mildenhall D.C. and Pole M.S. 1996. History and palaeoecology of New Zealand Nothofagus forests. In: Veblen T.T., Hill R.S. and Read J. (eds) The Ecology and Biogeography of Nothofagus Forests. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, pp. 83–130.Google Scholar
  23. Ministry of Works 1974. Land Use Capability Survey Handbook: A New Zealand Handbook for the Classification of Land. Ministry of Works, Wellington, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  24. Mueller-Dombois D. and Ellenberg H. 1974. Aims and Methods of Vegetation Ecology. John Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  25. Ogden J., Stewart G.H. and Allen R.B. 1996. Ecology of New Zealand Nothofagus forests. In: Veblen T.T., Hill R.S. and Read J. (eds) The Ecology and Biogeography of Nothofagus Forests. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, pp. 25–82.Google Scholar
  26. Schoener T.W. 1983. Field experiments on interspecific competition. American Naturalist 122: 240–285.Google Scholar
  27. Simberloff D. 1983. Competition theory, hypothesis test, and other community ecological buzzwords. American Naturalist 122: 626–635.Google Scholar
  28. Stewart G.H. and Rose A.B. 1990. The significance of life history strategies in the developmental history of mixed beech (Nothofagus) forests, New Zealand. Vegetatio 87: 101–114.Google Scholar
  29. Venables W.N. and Ripley B.D. 1994. Modern Applied Statistics with S-Plus. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  30. Wardle J. 1984. The New Zealand Beeches: Ecology, Utilisation, and Management. New Zealand Forest Service, Wellington, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  31. Wardle P. 1963. Evolution and distribution of the New Zealand flora, as affected by quaternary climates. New Zealand Journal of Botany 1: 3–17.Google Scholar
  32. Wardle P. 1991. Vegetation of New Zealand. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  33. Yee T.W. and Mitchell N.D. 1991. Generalized additive models in plant ecology. Journal of Vegetation Science 2: 587–602.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • J.R. Leathwick
    • 1
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchHamiltonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations