J Plant Ecol ›› 2020, Vol. 13 ›› Issue (2): 185-194.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtz061

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Changes in niche differentiation and environmental filtering over a hydric stress gradient

Alejandra Martínez-Blancas1,2,†, and Carlos Martorell1,*,†   

  1. 1 Departamento de Ecología y Recursos Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Coyoacán, 04510 Ciudad de México, Mexico, 2 Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Av. Ciudad Universitaria 3000, C.P. 04510, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México, Mexico

    *Corresponding author. E-mail: martorell@ciencias.unam.mx
  • Received:2019-05-09 Revised:2019-12-13 Accepted:2019-12-27 Online:2020-01-10 Published:2020-04-01

Abstract:

Aims

Diversity in communities is determined by species’ ability to coexist with each other and to overcome environmental stress that may act as an environmental filter. Niche differentiation (ND) results in stronger intra- than interspecific competition and promotes coexistence. Because stress affects interactions, the strength of ND may change along stress gradients. A greater diversity of plant growth forms has been observed in stressful habitats, such as deserts and alpine regions, suggesting greater ND when stress is strong. We tested the hypothesis that niche differences and environmental filters become stronger with stress.

Methods

In a semiarid grassland in southern Mexico, we sowed six annual species in the field along a hydric stress gradient. Plants were grown alone (without interactions), with conspecific neighbors (intraspecific interactions) or with heterospecific neighbors (interspecific interactions). We analyzed how the ratio of intra- to interspecific competition changed along the gradient to assess how water availability determines the strength of ND. We also determined if hydric stress represented an environmental filter.

Important Findings

We observed stronger intra- than interspecific competition, especially where hydric stress was greater. Thus, we found ND in at least some portion of the gradient for all but one species. Some species were hindered by stress, but others were favored by it perhaps because it eliminates soil pathogens. Although strong ND was slightly more frequent with stress, our species sample was small and there were exceptions to the general pattern, so further research is needed to establish if this is a widespread phenomenon in nature.

Key words: hydrological niche, species interactions, environmental constraints, species coexistence, stabilizing mechanisms, equalizing mechanisms

摘要:

群落的多样性取决于物种相互共存的能力,以及克服环境胁迫的能力,从而可能扮演一个环境过滤器的角色。生态位分化导致了比种间竞争更强的种内竞争,促进了物种共存。由于胁迫影响相互作用,生态位分化的强度可能沿胁迫作用的梯度发生变化。在有胁迫的栖息地,如沙漠和高山地区,植物的生长形式更加多样化,这表明在环境胁迫下植物具有更强的生态位分化。我们验证了生态位差异和环境过滤作用随着环境胁迫的增加而增强的假设。在墨西哥南部的半干旱草原上,我们沿着水分胁迫梯度在田间种植了6种一年生植物。植物进行三种种植处理:单独种植(没有相互作用),与同种植物为邻(种内相互作用)或与异种植物为邻(种间相互作用)。我们分析了种内与种间竞争的比值是如何沿水分胁迫梯度变化的,以评估水分如何决定生态位分化的强度。我们还测定了水分胁迫是否代表了一种环境过滤作用。我们发现了种内竞争比种间竞争更强,尤其是在水分胁迫更大的情况下。因此,我们的结果表明,除了一个物种外,所有物种至少在部分水分胁迫梯度下存在生态位分化。一些物种受到胁迫的阻碍,而另一些物种可能因为胁迫消除了土壤病原体而受到它的青睐。虽然高强度的生态位分化在环境胁迫下出现的频率略高,但由于我们的物种样本很小,而且这种通用的模式也存在例外,因此需要进一步的研究来确定这是否是自然界普遍存在的现象。

关键词: 水文生态位, 物种相互作用, 环境制约, 物种共存, 稳定机制, 均衡机制