Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Smaller Plants Punch Above Their Weight In The Forest

Date:
July 27, 2009
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
Biologists show that in the plant world, bigger isn't necessarily better. "Until now most of the thinking has suggested that to be a good competitor in the forest, you have to be a big plant," according to one of the researchers. "But our research shows it's virtually the other way around."

Previous studies revealed that larger plant species monopolize sunlight, water and other resources, limiting the number of smaller plant species that can exist around them. But new research has proven that this is not generally the case in natural vegetation.
Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

New findings from Queen's University biologists show that in the plant world, bigger isn't necessarily better.

"Until now most of the thinking has suggested that to be a good competitor in the forest, you have to be a big plant," says Queen's Biology professor Lonnie Aarssen. "But our research shows it's virtually the other way around."

Previous studies revealed that larger plant species monopolize sunlight, water and other resources, limiting the number of smaller plant species that can exist around them. But new research has proven that this is not generally the case in natural vegetation.

In the Queen's project, PhD student Laura Keating targeted the largest individuals or "host plants" of 16 woody plant species growing in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. The research team calculated the number and variety of plants that neighboured each large host plant. They then randomly selected plots without host plants and calculated the plant species there as well. The research showed that the massive trees have no effect on the number of species with which they coexist.

"Think of the plants like professional boxers," says Professor Aarssen. "To win the fight, you need more than a solid punch; you need to be able to tolerate all the punches you're going to take. The winner may be the competitor with the superior 'staying power'."

Smaller plants have many advantages over their overbearing neighbours, Professor Aarssen notes. Larger species generate physical space niches under their canopies where smaller species thrive. Smaller plants are much more effective than large trees at utilizing available resources. They also produce seeds at a much younger age and higher rate than their bigger counterparts, and establish much more quickly – thus competing with the seedlings of larger species.

"A growing body of literature is calling for re-evaluation of traditional views on the role of plant size in affecting competitive ability, community assembly and species coexistence," he adds.

The study was recently published in the international Journal of Plant Ecology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "Smaller Plants Punch Above Their Weight In The Forest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714124903.htm>.
Queen's University. (2009, July 27). Smaller Plants Punch Above Their Weight In The Forest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714124903.htm
Queen's University. "Smaller Plants Punch Above Their Weight In The Forest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714124903.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins