By Kirschnick R.
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When neighbors are very abundant, plants will be small; but when neighbors are scarce, plants can be either large or small. This type of relationship suggests that either our measures of local competition are inadequate or local competition is just one of many factors 2 • A Neighborhood View of Interactions among Individual Plants 23 determining individual plant performance. When local crowding is severe, it limits plant growth; but when local crowding is not so severe, plant growth is often limited by other factors in the local environment, such as soil quality or water availability.
For rosette-forming plants like Arabidopsis, individuals with a large diameter will necessarily have fewer neighbors than those 2 • A Neighborhood View of Interactions among Individual Plants 21 with a small diameter when plants are considered as points and neighborhoods are defined by a fixed radius. A plant with a tight rosette of leaves at its base cannot have a neighbor above ground within the radius of the rosette itself. Thus, it is then unclear whether a particular individual is small because it has many neighbors or has many neighbors because it is small.
1 Introduction The neighborhood perspective on plant interactions discussed in Chapter 2 shows the richness of processes in plant neighborhoods and how difficult it can be to obtain a detailed mechanistic understanding of them. Faced with this dilemma, plant ecologists have sometimes adopted a more phenomenological approach, which integrates over the known (and unknown) mechanisms by which neighbors interact, using a few neighborhood-dependent measures of plant performance. These measures are interaction coefficients, usually thought of as relating to competition between pairs of species.