Abstract. Two graphical models of plant competition, the ‘ghost of competition past’ and the ‘hierarchical’ model are compared using a greatly simplified individual‐based forest dynamics simulation. Assumed fundamental niche shapes are used to determine the basic growth responses of the species, but competition alters the realized niche. Differences in the two models, amount of niche overlap, disturbance, and removal and invasion of species are examined in simulation experiments. Without disturbance, the realized niche responses reveal abrupt boundaries between species in all cases, and thus the responses are generally platykurtic to rectangular with little overlap. In some cases overlap through the extension of abundance of weaker competitors into the area of greater resources — dominated by better competitors but still within their fundamental niche — creates skewed distributions, as have been observed and simulated in the past. When species are removed or invade, the abrupt boundaries and the lack of difference in final response shape indicate that past removals may be difficult to detect. This difficulty may be important because former species may be influencing the responses that are observed in common non‐equilibrium distributions. Even when assumptions favor the illustration of a competitive hierarchy, actual distributions and dynamics do not differentiate between it and a model of the ghost of competition past.
Journal of Vegetation Science – Wiley
Published: Apr 1, 1997
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