Data from: Corrections for rooting volume and plant size reveal negative effects of neighbour presence on root allocation in pea
Date of Archiving2016
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Experimental Plant Ecology
Key wordspath analysis; evolutionary game theory; ideal free distribution; split-root; plant-plant interactions; Tragedy of the commons; neighbour detection; root competition
Plants are able to detect the presence of their neighbours belowground. The associated root responses may affect plant performance, plant-plant interactions and community dynamics, but the extent and direction of these responses is heavily debated. Some studies suggest that plants will over-proliferate roots in response to neighbours at the expense of reproduction, which was framed as a “tragedy of the commons”. Others proposed an “ideal free distribution” hypothesis, stating that plants produce roots simply as a function of the amount of available nutrients. However, experimental evidence for either hypothesis that is unbiased by confounding effects of rooting volume and plant size in their experimental setups is still lacking. We grew split-root pea plants in the presence or absence of a belowground neighbour at a range of rooting volumes, while providing equal amounts of nutrients per plant. Path analyses were used to disentangle the direct effects of neighbour presence on allocation patterns from the confounding effects of rooting volume and plant size. Within the chosen range of rooting volumes, the presence of a belowground neighbour generally reduced plant root mass by 21% and total mass by 9%. A doubling of rooting volume generally increased plant root mass by 18% and total mass by 11%. Pod mass was only directly and positively correlated with vegetative mass. The presence of a belowground neighbour induced less root allocation but more pod allocation, whereas increased rooting volume caused a reduction in reproductive allocation. A large part of these effects, however, was indirectly mediated through the influence on plant total mass. Synthesis: Not considering the effects of rooting volume and plant size may lead to misinterpretations of plant growth strategies in response to neighbours. Accounting for these factors, we found pea allocating less mass to roots in the presence of a belowground neighbour. The obtained results can help to reconcile the various responses to belowground neighbours as they are published in the literature.