Spatial aggregation facilitates coexistence and diversity of wild plant species in field margins

Wassmuth, B. E. and Stoll, P. and Tscharntke, T. and Thies, C.. (2009) Spatial aggregation facilitates coexistence and diversity of wild plant species in field margins. Perspectives in plant ecology, evolution and systematics, Vol. 11, H. 2. pp. 127-135.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5250238

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European agri-environment schemes encourage farmers to establish sown field margin strips to protect and enhance wild plant diversity. However, plant diversity in such wild plant sowings based on seed mixtures is often low due to the high competitiveness of few, common species. Here we analysed whether intraspecific aggregation could enhance the performance of less competitive species, and how plant performance is influenced by the number of species in a mixture. We focused on inter- and intraspecific competition between six agricultural wild plant species (Centaurea cyanus, Calendula arvensis, Melilotus officinalis, Poa annua, Bromus mollis, Medicago lupulina), and tested (i) two different seeding patterns (intraspecifically aggregated vs. randomly dispersed) and (ii) three different species mixtures (monocultures, three-species, and six-species mixtures). Plant performance was measured in terms of number of individuals, biomass per individual, and biomass per m(2). Intraspecific aggregation resulted in higher numbers of individuals of all species, while mixtures generated lower numbers of individuals. The performance of plant species differed depending on their position in the competitive hierarchy. Competitively weak species suffered much less from intraspecific than interspecific competition in terms of biomass, and the competitively weakest species became even excluded in the most species rich and randomly dispersed sowings with high interspecific competition. In conclusion, the performance of wild plant species was influenced by both seeding pattern and number of species in a mixture. Intraspecific aggregation enabled the coexistence of competitively weak species by reducing interspecific competitive exclusion processes. Consequently, agri-environmental schemes designed to preserve and enhance biodiversity should consider small-scale processes influencing the distribution and abundance of plants, and develop new agricultural sowing technologies to cultivate competitively weak and endangered wild plant species.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Naturschutzbiologie (Baur)
UniBasel Contributors:Stoll, Peter
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Urban & Fischer
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:22 Mar 2012 14:28
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 14:03

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