Journal Article

Trait divergence and indirect interactions allow facilitation of congeneric species

Elisa Beltrán, Alfonso Valiente-Banuet and Miguel Verdú

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 7, pages 1369-1376
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs089
Trait divergence and indirect interactions allow facilitation of congeneric species

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background

Plant facilitation occurs when the presence of a plant (i.e. a nurse plant) modifies the environment, making it more favourable for the establishment and survival of other species (i.e. facilitated plants), which can germinate and grow nearby. Facilitative associations can be maintained or turned into competition as the facilitated seedling grows. According to the competition-relatedness hypothesis that suggests that closely related species tend to compete more, facilitation turns into competition between phylogenetically close species. However, some examples of facilitation between congeneric species, which are supposed to be closely related species, have been found in nature.

Scope

In this work, some examples of congeneric facilitation and subsequent coexistence are reviewed and an attempt is made to explain those exceptions to the competition-relatedness hypothesis.

Conclusions

Two mechanisms are proposed that can switch the facilitation–competition balance: trait divergence and indirect interactions. When traits have diverged within the genus, the niche overlap is reduced and competition relaxed, thus allowing the coexistence of congeneric species. The presence of third interplayers (mycorrhizal fungi, seed dispersers, pollinators or pathogens) participating in the interaction between plants can alleviate the competition or enhance the reproduction and allow the coexistence of species that could not coexist in their absence.

Keywords: Associational defences; competition; facilitation; indirect interactions; mycorrhizal networks; phylogenetic relatedness; pollination; seed dispersal; trait divergence

Journal Article.  5675 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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