Root communication mechanisms and intracommunity distributions of two Mojave Desert shrubs

B. E. Mahall, R. M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Scopus citations


Interactions among roots of Ambrosia dumosa and Larrea tridentata are more complex than simple competition for a limiting resource. Larrea roots inhibited elongation of either Larrea or Ambrosia roots in their vicinity, and Ambrosia roots inhibited elongation of contacted roots on other Ambrosia plants only. Activated carbon caused a significant decrease in the inhibition of elongation of neighboring roots by Larrea roots, but activated carbon had no effect on the intraspecific responses of Ambrosia roots. Results support the hypotheses that the interaction mechanism of Larrea roots involves the release of a readily diffusible, generally inhibitory substance by Larrea roots into the soil, rather than a simple depletion of water or nutrients from around Larrea roots, and that the intraspecific, self-nonself-recognizing interaction mechanism of Ambrosia roots is mediated by contact and is fundamentally different from that of Larrea. The root-mediated allelopathy of Larrea may play a role in producing and maintaining the commonly occurring, regular distributions of Larrea. The complex communication mechanism of Ambrosia roots appears to constitute a detection and avoidance system that may allow this shrub to grow in clumped intraspecific distributions with little or no intraspecific competition for water. The interspecific interference between Larrea and Ambrosia in the field may be mechanistically asymmetrical due to their different root communication mechanisms. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2145-2151
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992


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