Spatial Moment Equations for Plant Competition: Understanding Spatial Strategies and the Advantages of Short Dispersal
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A plant lineage can compete for resources in a spatially variable environment by colonizing new areas, exploiting resources in those areas quickly before other plants arrive to compete with it, or tolerating competition once other plants do arrive. These specializations are ubiquitous in plant communities, but all three have never been derived from a spatial model of community dynamics-instead, the possibility of rapid exploitation has been either overlooked or confounded with colonization. We use moment equations, equations for the mean densities and spatial covariance of competing plant populations, to characterize these strategies in a fully spatial stochastic model. The moment equations predict endogenous spatial pattern formation and the efficacy of spatial strategies under different conditions. The model shows that specializations for colonization, exploitation, and tolerance are all possible, and these are the only possible spatial strategies; among them, they partition all of the endogenous spatial structure in the environment. The model predicts two distinct short-dispersal specializations where parents disperse their offspring locally, either to exploit empty patches quickly or to fill patches to exclude competitors.
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