Spatially disjunct effects of co-occurring competition and facilitation

Ian A. Dickie, Stefan A. Schnitzer, Peter B. Reich, Sarah E. Hobbie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Little is known of the co-occurrence and implications of competitive and facilitative interactions within sites. Here we show spatially disjunct competition and facilitation at forest edges, with beneficial influences of trees on seedling growth via increased ectomycorrhizal infection apparent from 12 to 20 m while closer to trees seedling growth is negatively correlated with canopy closure. As a result, seedling growth is maximized at intermediate distances. Facilitative interactions were nonlinear: being within 15.7 m of a tree maximized seedling mycorrhizal infection; while competitive effects were correlated with canopy closure, which was related to distance and generally scales with density. These patterns result in a positive correlation of tree density and seedling growth at low densities of trees, and negative correlation at higher densities because of competition. A spatial model suggests that plant communities are a mosaic of positive and negative interactions, which may contribute to population homeostasis and plant diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1191-1200
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Community ecology
  • Competition
  • Density
  • Facilitation
  • Mycorrhiza
  • Plant interactions
  • Quercus macrocarpa Michaux (bur oak)
  • Seedling establishment
  • Shade
  • Symbiosis


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