The effect of neighbors on root distribution in a creosotebush (<i>Larrea tridentata</i>) population

TitleThe effect of neighbors on root distribution in a creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) population
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsBrisson J, Reynolds JF
JournalEcology
Volume75
Pagination1693-1702
Date Published1994
Call Number00645
Keywordsarticle, articles, competition,Larrea roots, journal, journals, Larrea, root competition, model,neighborhood,Larrea, root competition,Larrea
AbstractWe excavated and mapped the lateral extension of 32 creosotebush shrubs (Larrea tridentata) in the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico to examine the effect of neighborhood interaction on root distribution. The smallest closed-angle polygon encompassing all roots of an individual was taken as a representation of its root system. Several geometrical characteristics of these polygons were measured and compared to interference vectors based on the location and size of the neighbors. We found that root systems were more developed away from the maximum competitive pressure of neighbors. Relation between root system shape and pressure from neighbors was stronger when the competitive vectors were integrating effect from all neighbors. Size of neighbors did not appear to contribute significantly to the relation. The resulting spatial pattern tended to reduce the overlap between neighboring root systems. Two conceptual models of root growth response to neighbors appear to explain our results. Both models assume that when the root system of neighbors meet, root growth is impaired or ceases at the zone of contact. In the non-overlapping, non-compensatory model, the decrease in root growth between two close neighbors is not compensated elsewhere, possibly affecting the overall plant performance. In the non-overlapping, compensatory model, a plant with a close neighbor responds by investing in root growth away from the competitive pressure or simply in zones free of neighbors. Under this model, two plants can be close to each other and not compete. Competition in the population is for space and only occurs when a plant root system is crowded on all sides.