intra_competition_and_mycorrhizae_and_size

intra_competition_and_mycorrhizae_and_size - Journal of...

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Journal of Ecology 2006 94 , 285–294 © 2006 The Authors Journal compilation © 2006 British Ecological Society Blackwell Publishing Ltd Interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and intraspecific competition affect size, and size inequality, of Plantago lanceolata L. RUTH L. AYRES*, ALAN C. GANGE‡ and DAVID M. APLIN†‡ School of Health and Bioscience, University of East London, Romford Road, Stratford, London E15 4LZ, UK, and School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Hill, Egham Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK Summary 1 Intraspecific competition causes decreases in plant size and increases in size inequal- ity. Arbuscular mycorrhizas usually increase the size and inequality of non-competing plants, but mycorrhizal effects often disappear when plants begin competing. We hypothesized that mycorrhizal effects on size inequality would be determined by the experimental conditions, and conducted simultaneous field and glasshouse experiments to investigate how AM fungi and intraspecific competition determine size inequality in Plantago lanceolata . 2 As predicted, plant size was reduced when plants were competing, in both field and controlled conditions. However, size inequality was unexpectedly reduced by competition. Plants may have competed in a symmetric fashion, probably for nutrients, rather than the more common situation, in which plant competition is strongly asymmetric. 3 Mycorrhizas had no effect on plant size or size inequality in competing plants in either field or controlled conditions, possibly because competition for nutrients was intense and negated any benefit the fungi could provide. 4 The effects of mycorrhizas on non-competing plants were also unexpected. In field-grown plants, AM fungi increased plant size, but decreased size inequality: mycorrhizal plants were more even in size, with few very small individuals. In glasshouse conditions, mycorrhizal colonization was extremely high, and was generally anta- gonistic, causing a reduction in plant size. Here, however, mycorrhizas caused an increase in size inequality, supporting our original hypothesis. This was because most plants were heavily colonized and small, but a few had low levels of colonization and grew relatively large. 5 This study has important implications for understanding the forces that structure plant communities. AM fungi can have a variety of effects on size inequality and thus potentially important influences on long-term plant population dynamics, by affecting the genetic contribution of individuals to the next generation. However, these effects differ, depending on whether plants are competing or not, the degree of mycorrhizal colonization and the responsiveness of the plant to different colonization densities.
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