The Ecological Importance of Allelopathy

José L. Hierro, Ragan M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Allelopathy (i.e., chemical interaction among species) was originally conceived as inclusive of positive and negative effects of plants on other plants, and we adopt this view. Most studies of allelopathy have been phenomenological, but we focus on studies that have explored the ecological significance of this interaction. The literature suggests that studies of allelopathy have been particularly important for three foci in ecology: species distribution, conditionality of interactions, and maintenance of species diversity. There is evidence that allelopathy influences local distributions of plant species around the world. Allelopathic conditionality appears to arise through coevolution, and this is a mechanism for plant invasions. Finally, allelopathy promotes species coexistence via intransitive competition, modifications of direct interactions, and (co)evolution. Recent advances additionally suggest that coexistence might be favored through biochemical recognition. The preponderance of phenomenological studies notwithstanding, allelopathy has broad ecological consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - 2021


  • Chemical interactions
  • coevolved interactions
  • coexistence
  • conditionality
  • distribution
  • reciprocal perception


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