The evolution of competitive strategies in annual plants

Stephen P. Bonser, Brenton Ladd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Annual plants are common in disturbed habitats. It is frequently assumed that because these habitats often have low-plant density, competition is not important in shaping the ecological strategies of annual plants. We test for competitive strategies in genotypes of the short-lived annual plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Genotypes were grown in treatments with or without conspecific competitors. We measured size at reproduction and fitness (fruit production) at final development. We estimated competitive ability in each genotype at first reproduction (the ability to maintain size in the presence of competitors) and at final development (the ability to maintain fruit production in the presence of competitors). Genotypes showed relatively high competitive ability measured as fruit production at final development, but most genotypes had low competitive ability measured as size at reproduction. Our results suggest that competition has been important in the evolution of strategies in these genotypes but vegetative size is not a strong predictor of competitive ability. Rather, competitive ability is determined by the capacity to reproduce efficiently in the presence of competitors. The competitive strategies expressed across these genotypes suggest that competition has been a selective force in these plants, and that a fast life history is not equivalent to an "r-strategy."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1449
Number of pages9
JournalPlant Ecology
Volume212
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Keywords

  • Annual plants
  • Competition
  • Ecological strategies
  • Fecundity
  • Life histories
  • Size at reproduction

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