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The dynamic relationship between plant architecture and competition

E. David Ford
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
on 2014/10/03 at 11:00
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Ecologist’s theories of competition for light as interactions between whole plants have not been successful in explaining changes that occur in plant stands undergoing competition. This task now falls to researchers in plant architecture. Research in plant architecture has defined three important functions of individual plants: (i) resource acquisition plasticity; (ii) morphogenetic plasticity; (iii) architectural variation in efficiency of interception and utilization of light. These processes are synthesized into a theory for competition based on five groups of postulates.

Group 1: competition for light takes place at the level of component foliage and branches.

Group 2: the outcome of competition is determined by the dynamic interaction between processes that exert dominance and processes that react to suppression.

Group 3: species differences may affect both exertion of dominance and reaction to suppression.

Group 4: individual plants may simultaneously exhibit, in different component parts, resource acquisition and morphogenetic plasticity.

Group 5: mortality is a time-delayed response to suppression.

Development of architectural models, when combined with field investigations, is identifying research needed to develop a theory of architectural influences on the competition process. These include analyses of the integration of foliage and branch components into whole-plant growth and precise definitions of environmental control of morphogenetic plasticity and its interaction with acquisition of carbon for plant growth. It will be important that researchers in plant architecture make comprehensive tests of models designed to explain the competition process.