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Plant neighbors differentially alter a focal species’ biotic interactions through changes to resource allocation

Cite this dataset

Turner, Sophia Carmel; Schweitzer, Jennifer (2024). Plant neighbors differentially alter a focal species’ biotic interactions through changes to resource allocation [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plant resource allocation strategies are thought to be largely a consequence of changing abiotic conditions and evolutionary history. However, biotic interactions also influence how a plant allocates resources. As a result, plants mediate indirect interactions between organisms above- and belowground through resource allocation. Neighboring plants can influence plant fitness directly through competition for resources, and indirectly by altering associated community interactions (associational effects). Given the importance of community interactions for plant success, and the known ability for plant neighbors to change these interactions, the goal of this “pandemic project” was to separate inter- and intraspecific plant associations, above- and belowground, to understand how different plant neighbors alter plant resource allocation, and if this in turn alters biotic interactions. We specifically investigated associational effects on herbivory and soil microbial community interactions. To do so, we established a common garden experiment, manipulating plant neighbors and extent of interactions (aboveground only versus above- and belowground interactions, using customized pot types), and measured changes to a focal plant and its biotic interactions over two growing seasons. We found evidence of both neighbor effects and pot type, showing that neighbor interactions affect a focal plant through both above- and belowground processes, and how the focal plant is affected depends on neighbor identity. Though neighbors did not directly alter herbivory or most soil microbial interactions, they did alter the relationship between belowground microbial communities and plant function. Resource allocation responses were reduced with time, showing the importance of extending experiments beyond a single growing season, and is an important consideration when making predictions about plant responses to changing conditions. This study contributes to a growing body of work showing how the community context affects the above- and belowground interactions of a plant through plant resource allocation strategies.

README: Plant neighbors differentially alter a focal species’ biotic interactions through changes to resource allocation

This study looks at a focal plants response to two different plant neighbors, and whether plant neighbors alter a focal plants allocation and biotic interactions through above or belowground mechanisms.

Description of the data and file structure

Data provided includes a metadata sheet and two data sheets.

The metadata provides descriptions of each column of data in the data sheets.

Sheet 1 contains plant allocation and trait data for a focal plant (S. altissima), in response to growth in two pot types, based on plant neighbor. Neighbor biomass and rgr are also included. All data are at a pot level (i.e., species mean trait response per pot), whereby each row is a different pot. Also included are S. altissima herbivory rates and belowground soil microbial diverisity associated with the focal plant.
Sheet 2 provides the number of new shoots produced by the focal plant and its neighbors in year two of the experiment, with pot type and plant neighbor identity as categorical variables.

NOTE: one of the plant neighbors, Cirsium discolor is an annual thistle, which was not present in year two, therefore 0s exist in the dataset. 

Sharing/Access information

For questions about the data or access to code, please email the corresponding author.


No code is included, but code will be shared on request.