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Competition Is a Strong Driving Factor in Wetlands, Peaking during Drying Out Periods

Abstract : The aim of the study is to investigate the relative importance of plant-plant interactions with regard to flooding and drought effect on perennial plant performances in wetlands. Flooding is expected to be the major driver and, accordingly, the importance of drought is hardly if ever taken into account. Focusing on five widespread species, the growth, the survival and the competitive ability of plants were monitored on permanent plots spread along two elevation gradients. Flooding duration and drought intensity were found to vary substantially along the similar to 0.5 meter range elevation gradient. Flooding and drought alternate over the hydrological year and the pin-point surveys were thus conducted over the course of one year. The data were modeled taking into account survival, recruitment and competitive growth throughout flooding and drying out periods. Flooding and drought both directly impacted the plant performances and their competitive effect, with the effect of drought being much more general among species and of higher magnitude than flooding. The importance of competition was found to be high for all species, particularly during the drying out period. It varied more along the flooding gradient than along the drought gradient. The higher flooding tolerance shown by the studied species compared to drought may be related to species specific growth timing together with efficient response traits. These results offer new insights into the filters operating over the species pools. This suggests that the drying out period and drought conditions may be even more important for species' relative success and the importance of competition than the flooding pattern. The general applicability of this result, obtained in mild Atlantic climate and fertile wetlands, remains to be studied.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 22, 2015 - 5:07:34 PM
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Amandine Merlin, Anne Bonis, Christian F. Damgaard, François Mesléard. Competition Is a Strong Driving Factor in Wetlands, Peaking during Drying Out Periods. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10(6) (6), pp.e130152. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0130152⟩. ⟨hal-01203317⟩

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