Population dynamic models are developed for communities of annual plants in spatially heterogeneous environments. These models are constructed from submodels of the survivorship, fecundity, germination, and dispersal of individual plants. The submodels include the effects of spatially local interactions on plant performance and the spatial variation in performance caused by spatial heterogeneity in the physical environment. It is possible to estimate the submodels from data on experimental communities in either the field or greenhouse and so it is possible to empirically calibrate the population dynamic models developed. Each population dynamic model explicitly includes the spatial distribution of individuals in a plant community. Several two-species models for plants in patchy environments are studied to examine the community-level consequences of spatial heterogeneity in the physical environment. The results fall into two classes. First, community structure is in part determined by a relation between patch size and mean seed dispersal distance. Specifically, coexistence is, in some cases, possible only if patches are sufficiently larger than the mean dispersal distance. Second, community structure is also affected by relations between patch size and the maximum distance over which two plants interact (termed the neighborhood radius). In some cases, coexistence is possible only if patch size is sufficiently larger than the neighborhood radius. In others, the species coexist only if patch size is sufficiently smaller than the neighborhood radius. In still other cases, coexistence is possible only if patch sizes are within critical bounds, where the sizes of the critical bounds are in units of the neighborhood radius. All results involving relations between the neighborhood radius and patch size are direct consequences of the sedentary nature of plants and the fact that individual plants interact primarily with nearby plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics