• Interspecific and intraspecific interactions between salt marsh plants: Integrating the effects of environmental factors and density on plant performance

      Huckle, Jonathan M.; Marrs, Robert H.; Potter, Jacqueline; University of Liverpool ; University of Liverpool ; Chester College of Higher Education (Nordic Ecological Society, 2002-02)
      There has been much debate about the role of plant interactions in the structure and function of vegetation communities. Here the results of a pot experiment with controlled environments are described where three environmental variables (nutrients, sediment type and waterlogging) were manipulated factorially to identify their effects on the growth and intensity of interactions occurring between Spartina anglica and Puccinellia maritima. The two species were grown in split-plot planting treatments, representing intraspecific and interspecific addition series experiments, to determine individual and interactive effects of environmental factors and plant interactions on plant biomass. Above-ground growth of both species involved interactions between the environmental and planting treatments, while below-ground, environmental factors affected the biomass irrespective of planting treatments. It was suggested that this difference in growth response is evidence that in our experiment plant interactions between the two species occur primarily at the above-ground level. The intensity of plant interactions varied in a number of ways. First, interactions between Spartina and Puccinellia were distinctly asymmetrical, Puccinellia exerting a competitive effect on Spartina, with no reciprocal effect, and with a facilitative effect of Spartina on Puccinellia in low nutrient conditions. Second, the interactions varied in intensity in different environmental conditions. Interspecific competitive effects of Puccinellia on Spartina were more intense in conditions favourable to growth of Puccinellia and reduced or non-existent in environments with more abiotic stress. Third, intraspecific competition was found to be less intense for both species than interspecific interactions. Finally, the intensity of plant interactions involving both species was more intense above ground than below ground, with a disproportionate reduction in the intensity of interspecific competition below relative to above ground in treatments with less productive sediments and greater immersion. This is interpreted as reflecting a potential mechanism by which Spartina may be able to evade competitive neighbours.
    • Long term analysis of social structure: evidence of age-based consistent associations in male Alpine ibex

      Brambilla, Alice; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Canedoli, Claudia; Brivio, Francesca; Sueur, Cédric; Stanley, Christina R.; University of Zurich; University of Chester; University of Milano Bicocca; University of Sassari; University de Strasbourg; Institut Universitaire de France (Wiley, 2022-06-28)
      Despite its recognized importance for understanding the evolution of animal sociality as well as for conservation, long term analysis of social networks of animal populations is still relatively uncommon. We investigated social network dynamics in males of a gregarious mountain ungulate (Alpine ibex, Capra ibex) over ten years focusing on groups, sub-groups and individuals, exploring the dynamics of sociality over different scales. Despite the social structure changing between seasons, the Alpine ibex population was highly cohesive: fission–fusion dynamics lead almost every male in the population to associate with each other male at least once. Nevertheless, we found that male Alpine ibex showed preferential associations that were maintained across seasons and years. Age seemed to be the most important factor driving preferential associations while other characteristics, such as social status, appeared less crucial. We also found that centrality measures were influenced by age and were also related to individual physical condition. The multi-scale and long-term frame of our study helped us show that ecological constrains, such as resource availability, may play a role in shaping associations in a gregarious species, but they cannot solely explain sociality and preferential association that are likely also to be driven by life-history linked physiological and social needs. Our results highlight the importance of long-term studies based on individually recognizable subjects to help us build on our understanding of the evolution of animal sociality.