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To clarify the role of seasonal change, competitive response and nutrient availability in the competitive asymmetry of grassland species a competition experiment was conducted on Holcus lanatus, Anthoxanthum odoratum and Festuca ovina, which represent a successional sequence of decreasing nutrient availability. Seven harvests were taken over two growing seasons. At each harvest the dry weight of plant parts, dead leaves, leaf area and plant height were measured. Three key traits that determine the successional status of the species were studied: specific leaf area, specific shoot height, and dead leaf fraction. The response of these traits to competition appeared to be limited and insufficient to change the competitive relations in the experiment. However, all three traits showed marked seasonal changes which resulted in superior growth and survival in winter of the species adapted to nutrient-poor environments. The findings support the theory that competitive asymmetry increases at higher nutrient levels. It is postulated that the directionality of light makes it possible for the dominant species to monopolize this resource more easily than nutrients. [KEYWORDS: biomass turnover; competitive asymmetry; competitive response; seasonal change; specific leaf area; specific shoot height; succession Relative growth-rate; experimental gradient; plant; allocation; root; availability; plasticity; nitrogen; light; leaf]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-559
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ID: 252739