Distance- and density-dependent recruitment of common ragwort is not driven by plant-soil feedbacks

Xiangyu Liu* (Corresponding author), Dong He, Klaas Vrieling, Suzanne T.E. Lommen, Chenguang Gao, T. Martijn Bezemer* (Corresponding author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Janzen-Connell effects state that the accumulation of host-specific natural enemies near parent plants can negatively affect their offspring. Negative plant-soil feedbacks can produce patterns of seedling performance predicted by Janzen-Connell effects and influence plant populations, but their relevance in field conditions remains unclear. Here, using spatial point-pattern analysis, we examine the spatial distribution of Jacobaea vulgaris to assess whether distance- and density-dependent predictions of Janzen-Connell effects are evident in the field. We established 27 replicated 64 m2 plots at two grassland sites and mapped positions of rosette-bearing and flowering J. vulgaris plants within each plot. To investigate temporal distribution patterns, we tracked plant positions repeatedly in three plots during a single season. Additionally, we tested whether these patterns are soil-mediated. Soil samples were collected underneath flowering plants and at a distance of 0.5 meter, and used to compare seed germination, seedling survival, and growth under controlled conditions. Furthermore, we measured J. vulgaris growth in soil from patches with high J. vulgaris densities and in soil from areas outside these patches. The density of rosette-bearing plants was lower at close distances from flowering plants than expected from null models, suggesting negative distance-dependent plant recruitment. The degree of clustering decreased over time from rosette-bearing to flowering plants, indicating density-dependent self-thinning. Seed germination was higher in soil further away from flowering J. vulgaris plants than in soil underneath plants at one site, but soil distance was not an overall significant factor in explaining seed germination. However, seedling mortality and biomass did not differ between soils collected at the two distances, and plants produced similar biomass in soil collected from inside and outside J. vulgaris patches. Our study demonstrates conspecific distance- and density-dependent plant recruitment in J. vulgaris in the field, but we found no evidence this depends on belowground natural enemies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Early online date23 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Grasslands
  • Jacobaea vulgaris
  • Janzen-connell effects
  • Plant-soil interactions
  • Seed germination
  • Spatial point-pattern analysis


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