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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 1994

Separation of allelopathy and resource competition by the boreal dwarf shrub Empetrum hermaphroditum Hagerup

Nilsson Hegethorn, Marie-Charlotte


An experimental technique was used to separate and evaluate the magnitude of allelopathic interference relative to resource competition by the boreal dwarf shrub Empetrum hermaphroditum Hagerup (Empetraceae). To test for resource competition and allelopathy, respectively, Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seedlings were grown in both the greenhouse and in the field over a 3 year period, in four different treatments within E. hermaphroditum vegetation: (1) PVC tubes were used to reduce effects of interspecific below-ground competition; (2) activated carbon was spread on the soil to adsorb toxins leached from E. hermaphroditum litter and green leaves, thus reducing effects of allelopathic interference; (3) E. hermaphroditum vegetation was left untreated to evaluate inhibiting effects when both allelopathy and resource competition were present; (4) PVC tubes, placed in E. hermaphroditum vegetation spread with activated carbon were used to determine growth of seedlings when both allelopathy and resource competition were reduced. Scots pine seedlings grown in untreated vegetation (with both root competition and allelopathy present) had the lowest shoot length and dry weight; seedlings with both allelopathy and root competition reduced (activated carbon in tube) were the largest. Reducing either root competition alone (tube treatment) or allelopathy alone (carbon treatment) produced seedlings of intermediate size, but reduced competition had a greater effect than reduced allelopathy (although, in the greenhouse, significantly so only for root biomass). In the greenhouse experiment, biomass production of seedlings grown free of both interactions (carbon in tube) was greater than the simple sum of the growth response to the individual interactions (tube treatment and carbon treatment, respectively). Larger shoot:root ratios were also found when pine seedlings were grown without tubes (i.e. when resource competition was occurring). In the field, the removal of allelopathy (carbon treatments) increased shoot:root ratio when compared to the removal of resource competition. The study showed that two different interference mechanisms of E. hermaphroditum can be separated and quantified, and that below-ground competition and allelopathy by E. hermaphroditum are both important factors retarding growth of Scots pine.



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1994, Volume: 98, number: 1, pages: 1-7

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