• 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.