Plant–plant interactions and environmental change


Author for correspondence: Rob W. Brooker Tel: +1330 826341 Fax: +1330 823303 Email:



  • Summary

  • I. Introduction 272
  • II. Plant–plant interactions mediate the impacts of environmental change 273
  • III. Plant–plant interactions in context 276
  • IV. Understanding variation in the role of plant–plant interactions 278
  • V. Concluding remarks 281
  • Acknowledgements 281

  • References 281


Natural systems are being subjected to unprecedented rates of change and unique pressures from a combination of anthropogenic environmental change drivers. Plant–plant interactions are an important part of the mechanisms governing the response of plant species and communities to these drivers. For example, competition plays a central role in mediating the impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, climate change and invasive nonnative species. Other plant–plant interaction processes are also being recognized as important factors in determining the impacts of environmental change, including facilitation and evolutionary processes associated with plant–plant interactions. However, plant–plant interactions are not the only factors determining the response of species and communities to environmental change drivers – their activity must be placed within the context of the wide range of factors that regulate species, communities and ecosystems. A major research challenge is to understand when plant–plant interactions play a key role in regulating the impact of environmental change drivers, and the type of role that plant–plant interactions play. Although this is a considerable challenge, some areas of current research may provide the starting point to achieving these goals, and should be pursued through large-scale, integrated, multisite experiments.