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Oecologia. 2009 Jun;160(3):471-82. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1324-y. Epub 2009 Apr 8.

Switch between competition and facilitation within a seasonal scale at colony level in bryophytes.

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  • 1Limnology and Phycology Section, Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, Trento, Italy.


The relative importance of positive and negative interaction in species assemblages is thought to be dependent on the harshness of the physical environment. I studied the consistency of this prediction in a field experiment using growth of the target species Warnstorfia exannulata as influenced by the presence or absence of two adjacent species, Sphagnum warnstorfii and Scapania undulata. In particular, I focused on the mechanism by which colony-colony interactions occur, elucidating how the balance of positive and negative interactions changes along a water gradient. Because the natural fluctuations of the environment modify the water gradient, it was expected that the competitive hierarchies of the species would not remain consistent over time. Results indicated that the different hydrological properties of the colonies, thought to be the necessary condition for the appearance of species interactions, were not sufficient to explain the outcome of the species interactions. The switch from competition to facilitation under more stressful conditions was not confirmed along a water stress gradient. In addition, natural climatic fluctuations, by affecting the length of the water gradient, changed the competitive hierarchies of the species on a seasonal scale.

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