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Citation. Tilman, D. 1986. Resources, competition and the dynamics of plant communities. Pages 51-75 in Crawley, M. ed., Plant Ecology. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford. [1164 LTER]
Introduction. As discussed in Chapter 1, there are many factors that influence the structure of plant communities. A central goal of plant ecology is to understand the processes and mechanisms that cause the patters we see. This is no easy task, however. There are more than 300,000 species of terrestrial vascular plants world-wide, and more than 1,000,000 species of animal. Any given habitat may contain from a few plant species to hundreds of different species, all of which are potentially interacting with each other, with their abiotic environments, with soil micro-organisms, and with herbivores, pathogens, predators, pollinators and dispersal agents. Thus, plant community structure is likely to be influenced by interspecific competition, by herbivory, by predation, and by mutualism. Additionally, the habitat in which plants live is not constant. Rainfall, temperature, and the population densities of various herbivores, predators and mutualists changes through time, on both short and long term scales. The natural, ecological world may be one of the most complex systems that scientists have tried to understand. One way to approach such a complex system is to start with a few important processes, and see what features of the system can and cannot be explained using those processes.
Keywords. competition, plant communities