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Kelly, N., Cousens, R. D., Taghizadeh, M. S., Hanan, J. S., & Mouillot, D. (2013). Plants as populations of release sites for seed dispersal: a structural-statistical analysis of the effects of competition on Raphanus raphanistrum. J. Ecol., 101(4), 878–888.
Résumé: Trajectories of dispersing seeds begin at the positions of their fruits on the maternal plant. Mechanistic simulation models usually assume that seed release is restricted to a characteristic, species-specific height. However, real canopies constitute distributed rather than point sources, which may have important consequences for dispersal kernels. Fruit positions are determined by plant architecture, which is under both genetic control and environmental influence. Competition with other plants has a major modifying influence on canopy structure. We used quantitative methods to describe the positions of fruits on plants of Raphanus raphanistrum L., examined how fruit spatial distributions change when plants grow under interspecific competition and explored how this is related to changes in the structural geometry and topology of the plant. Raphanus raphanistrum was grown either as individual plants or in a wheat crop. Branching structures and fruit positions were captured using a three-dimensional digitizer. Propagule locations were also mapped on the ground after dispersal. Fruit distributions pre-dispersal were analysed using various statistical approaches; plant topological and geometrical indices were calculated for the branching structures. Plants grown under competition were smaller, but the reduced size was because fewer modules were produced rather than because individual branches were in some way different. The distribution of these branches was also different under competition, with more apical dominance resulting in less branching along dominant modules. Under competition, fruits were concentrated in the upper parts of the canopy and closer, in the horizontal plane, to the base of the plant. This resulted in much more restricted local seed shadows post-dispersal. Synthesis. The effect of competition on plant size is primarily a result of a reduction in initiation of branches. For species with limited dispersal ability, this results in a greatly modified seed shadow at short distances. In the case of agricultural weeds, the concentration of fruits at greater heights when competing with a crop might result in a greater proportion being dispersed long distances by harvesting machinery, but they would be fewer in number.