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Am Nat. 2000 Jan;155(1):13-23.

The Population Dynamics and Community Ecology of Root Hemiparasitic Plants.


Root hemiparasitic plants and their host plants interact directly, through parasitism, as well as indirectly, through scramble competition for resources. To understand the population dynamics and community ecology of root hemiparasitic plants and their hosts, models of resource-based competition have been extended to include resource parasitism. Parasitism provides a mechanism for parasitic plants to overcome deficits in their ability to compete for soil resources. The interaction ranges from competitive to exploiter-victim, depending on whether the benefits of parasitism overshadow the costs of competition. These models predict that as productivity in the system increases, parasitic plants should become more abundant. In diverse host communities, differences in the impact that parasites have on their hosts and the benefits that they receive from parasitizing different hosts may lead to nontransitive competitive relationships and a sort of apparent competition. The possible dynamics include paper-rock-scissors oscillations and indirect mutualisms between parasitic plants and their hosts that allow them to form coalitions that can exclude competitive dominants.

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