New Zealand's four broad-leaved evergreen tree species from the genus Nothofagus all show pronounced distributional disjunctions, independent of environmental factors known to influence tree distributions. Here, we use these disjunctions as the basis for a natural removal experiment to investigate competitive interactions between Nothofagus and a range of other widespread conifer and broad-leaved tree species. We first model the abundance of non- Nothofagus species as a function of environment, using Generalized Additive Models (GAMs) and an extensive data set sampling much of New Zealand's remaining old-growth forests. We then assess the effects of competitive interaction with Nothofagus by adding statistical terms describing (1) Nothofagus abundance, and (2) interactions between Nothofagus abundance and annual temperature, the dominant environmental gradient. Results indicate substantial reductions in the abundance of many species as Nothofagus abundance increases. The magnitude of this reduction varies with position along the dominant environmental gradient; species overlapping most strongly with Nothofagus are generally most sensitive to increases in Nothofagus abundance. In addition, both the shapes of species responses to mean annual temperature and the positions of their optima change as Nothofagus abundance increases. This demonstration of competition using community compositional data has implications both for vegetation theory and for prediction of the likely impacts of global warming on New Zealand's forest pattern.
Ecology – Ecological Society of America
Published: Sep 1, 2001
Keywords: broad-leaved evergreen ; climate variables ; conifer ; GAM regression ; generalized additive model ; interspecific competition ; landform ; New Zealand ; Nothofagus ; old-growth forest ; removal experiment ; temperature gradient
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