Life-history constraints in grassland plant species:a growth-defence trade-off is the norm

Lind, Eric M. and Borer, Elizabeth and Seabloom, Eric and Adler, Peter and Bakker, Jonathan D. and Blumenthal, Dana M. and Crawley, Mick and Davies, Kendi and Firn, Jennifer and Gruner, Daniel S. and Stanley Harpole, W. and Hautier, Yann and Hillebrand, Helmut and Knops, Johannes and Melbourne, Brett and Mortensen, Brent and Risch, Anita C. and Schuetz, Martin and Stevens, Carly and Wragg, Peter D. (2013) Life-history constraints in grassland plant species:a growth-defence trade-off is the norm. Ecology Letters, 16 (4). pp. 513-521. ISSN 1461-023X

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Plant growth can be limited by resource acquisition and defence against consumers, leading to contrasting trade-off possibilities. The competition-defence hypothesis posits a trade-off between competitive ability and defence against enemies (e.g. herbivores and pathogens). The growth-defence hypothesis suggests that strong competitors for nutrients are also defended against enemies, at a cost to growth rate. We tested these hypotheses using observations of 706 plant populations of over 500 species before and following identical fertilisation and fencing treatments at 39 grassland sites worldwide. Strong positive covariance in species responses to both treatments provided support for a growth-defence trade-off: populations that increased with the removal of nutrient limitation (poor competitors) also increased following removal of consumers. This result held globally across 4 years within plant life-history groups and within the majority of individual sites. Thus, a growth-defence trade-off appears to be the norm, and mechanisms maintaining grassland biodiversity may operate within this constraint.

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Journal Article
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Ecology Letters
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Deposited On:
29 Nov 2013 13:43
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 00:30