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Nearest-neighbour interactions in species-rich shrublands: the roles of abundance, spatial patterns and resources

Perry, G.L.W., Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505, Miller, B.P. and Lamont, B.B. (2009) Nearest-neighbour interactions in species-rich shrublands: the roles of abundance, spatial patterns and resources. Oikos, 118 (2). pp. 161-174.

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We explored pairwise nearest-neighbour interactions in four species-rich shrubland plant communities, asking the question: how often is an individual of species j the nearest-neighbour of species i? In the observed data and null models, less than 35% of the maximum possible number of nearest-neighbour species pairs was present, and at three of the four sites the number of observed nearest-neighbour pairs were significantly less than those occurring in simulated null communities. Many of the missing pairs included woody shrubs whose absence might be interpreted as evidence of site-specific competition between larger growth forms for soil resources or space. Less than 5% of the pairs of species that occurred did so at frequencies different from that expected under random mixing, and many of these pairs were conspecific. Of the heterospecific pairs whose frequency differed significantly from random mixing there was a weak bias towards pairs occurring at higher rather than lower frequencies than expected. There was no evidence for asymmetry (interaction of species j with species i but not the reverse) in the frequency of species pairs. Nearest-neighbour relationships are species-specific rather than between plant functional types. The four sites form a soil nutrient and water availability gradient, and, according to the stress gradient hypothesis, positive species interactions should be most prevalent at the most stressful sites. However, we found the opposite: the site with the highest availability of resources had both proportionally the most heterospecific pairs, and the most conspecific and heterospecific species pairs with frequencies departing significantly from that expected under random mixing.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.
Copyright: © 2009 The Authors.
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