Aspen Bibliography

Variation in plant responses to neighbors at local and regional scales

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

American Naturalist





First Page


Last Page


Publication Date



Differences in the responses of plant species to neighbors may determine their distribution among contrasting environments, but no studies have compared variation in competitive or facilitative abilities both within and among environments. We determined whether the responses of plants to interspecific interactions varied at large scales (between environments) and small scales (among sites within an environment) across a tree line. We separated the effects of above‐ and belowground interactions on seedlings of grasses and trees grown in prairie or forest using vegetation removals at several sites. Species interactions generally had no significant effect on transplant survival. Competition reduced seedling growth by about 33%–89% in both prairie and forest environments. Despite the strong suppression of growth by neighbors, environment and species effects contributed more to variation in transplant performance than did neighbor removals. Responses to neighbors varied among transplant species but generally did not vary significantly between environments or among sites. With vegetation removed, grasses grew significantly faster in prairie and trees grew faster in forest. Thus, in the absence of neighbors, species showed distinct preferences for the environment in which they are most abundant. In summary, the responses of grasses and woody species to neighbors did not vary significantly at either large (between environments) or small (among sites) scales. These results suggest that species responses to interspecific interactions do not vary strongly with environment or smaller‐scale site effects.