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Keywords:

  • Abiotic factor;
  • Biotic factor;
  • Competition;
  • Context-dependency;
  • Direct interaction;
  • Ecosystem engineering;
  • Facilitation;
  • Indirect effect;
  • Species interaction

Abstract. Spatial and temporal variation in interactions among plants, other species and the abiotic environment create context-dependency in vegetation pattern. We argue that we can enhance understanding of context-dependency by being more explicit about the kinds of direct interactions that occur among more than two living and non-living entities (i.e., third through nth parties) and formalizing how their combinations create context-dependency using simple conceptual models. This general approach can be translated into field studies of context-dependency in communities by combining: progressive sampling of local variation in vegetation pattern that encompasses variation in combinations of direct interactions; spatial and temporal measures of these direct interactions; locally parameterized versions of the conceptual models; and appropriately scaled experiments.