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Keywords:

  • local crowding;
  • local density;
  • neighbourhood competition;
  • neighbour size;
  • plant competition;
  • size-symmetric competition;
  • target plant

Summary

  • 1
    Neighbour size and distance are confounded in most studies of plant growth and competition at the individual level. To investigate the effects of neighbour size on competitive effect, we grew target Kochia scoparia individuals surrounded by six equidistant, even-aged conspecific neighbours. We varied neighbour size by sowing groups of neighbours at different times, and we also varied the sowing time of the target plants to generate variation in both neighbour and target size during the process of competition. We analysed the growth of target plants over two time intervals as a function of their own size and the size of their neighbours at the beginning of the interval.
  • 2
    When competition became intense, the relative growth rate of target plants was primarily determined by the size of their neighbours. There was a negative linear relationship between the relative growth rate of target plants over an interval and the biomass of their neighbours at the beginning of the interval. The size of the target plant itself did not make a significant additional contribution to predicting its growth rate. There is a limit on the growth in biomass of the population (target + neighbours), and growth of individuals occurs within this constraint. Local biomass density, which can be primarily determined by neighbouring individuals, can be much more important for an individual's growth than its own size.
  • 3
    There was no evidence of size-asymmetric competition. The size of neighbours was the primary determinant of a target plant's relative growth rate, but the effect of a given amount of neighbour biomass was the same for neighbours larger and those smaller than the target plant.