Multi-scale regulated plant community dynamics: mechanisms and implications

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Abstract

Plant competition is not a direct interaction, but operates via environmental feedback loops, which interconnect population densities and environmental regulating variables. It is suggested that due to scale dependent elements of these feedback loops, competition may occur eventually on very different scales, necessitating a cross-scale extension of plant competition theory. After introducing the concept of cross-scale competition, we incorporate its elements into a metacommunity model and study its implications on community organization. It is found that both the equilibrium community composition, regarding coexisting functional types, and its stability depend on scale dependent attributes of environmental feedback loops and disturbance regimes. We argue that plant communities are likely to exhibit properties, which are in line with the hierarchical ecosystem concept. Environmental feedback loops on different scales act as distinct organizational levels, what can be affected by disturbances of corresponding spatial extent.

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