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Citation. Tilman, D. 1997. Mechanisms of plant competition. Pages 239-261 in M. Crawley, ed., Plant Ecology, Second Edition. Blackwell Science, Oxford, England. [1182 LTER]
Introduction. The presence of a plant species in a locality, its abundance and the number of other plant species with which it coexists are influenced by numerous biological and physical processes. Interspecific interactions such as competition, herbivory, seed predation, mutualism, parasitism and disease may greatly affect plant dynamics and community structure (e.g Janzen 1970; Hubbell 1980; Fowler 1981; Tilman 1982; Schoener 1983, 1985; Berendse 1985; Coley et al. 1985; Brown et al. 1986; McNaughton 1986; Clay 1990; Huntly 1991). In addition, soil pH, temperature, rainfall and other physical factors, fire, trampling, burial, erosion, windfall, landslides and other disturbances, and seed or pathogen or herbivore dispersal and other spatial processes also greatly influence plant distribution, dynamics and diversity (e.g. Connell 1978; Sprugel and Bormann 1981; Goldberg 1985; Pickett and White 1985; Vitousek and Matson 1985; Whitney 1986; Clark 1989; Petraitis et al. 1989; Gilpin and Hanski 1991). Plant ecology is an exciting and intriguing area of study because of this multiplicity of interacting forces. This chapter focuses on one of these, competition among plant species. The basic mechanisms of plant competition are developed first, and then these mechanisms are integrated with some of the other potentially important forces to build more complete explanations for observed patterns.