Plasticity in response to plant–plant interactions and water availability

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The plastic responses of plants to abiotic and biotic environmental factors have generally been addressed separately; thus we have a poor understanding of how these factors interact. For example, little is known about the effects of plant–plant interactions on the plasticity of plants in response to water availability. Furthermore, few studies have compared the effects of intra- and interspecific interactions on plastic responses to abiotic factors. To explore the effects of intraspecific and interspecific plant–plant interactions on plant responses to water availability, we grew Leucanthemum vulgare and Potentilla recta with a conspecific or the other species, and grew pairs of each species as controls in pots with the roots, but not shoots, physically separated. We subjected these competitive arrangements to mesic and dry conditions, and then measured shoot mass, root mass, total mass and root : shoot ratio and calculated plasticity in these traits. The total biomass of both species was highly suppressed by both intra- and interspecific interactions in mesic soil conditions. However, in drier soil, intraspecific interactions for both species and the effect of P. recta on L. vulgare were facilitative. For plasticity in response to water supply, when adjusted for total biomass, drought increased shoot mass, and decreased root mass and root : shoot ratios for both species in intraspecific interactions. When grown alone, there were no plastic responses in any trait except total mass, for either species. Our results suggested that plants interacting with other plants often show improved tolerance for drought than those grown alone, perhaps because of neighbor-induced shifts in plasticity in biomass allocation. Facilitative effects might also be promoted by plasticity to drought in root : shoot ratios.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03361
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • belowground growth
  • biomass allocation
  • competition
  • drought stress
  • facilitation


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