Kosola, K. R. and K. L. Gross. 1999. Resource competition and suppression of plants colonizing early successional old fields. Oecologia 118:69-75.
Early colonizing annual plants are rapidly suppressed in secondary succession on fertile midwestern old fields, while later colonizing perennials persist. Differences in competitive ability for above- and belowground resources may be partly responsible for differences in species persistence during succession, as both light and nutrient availability may change rapidly. We found that, although both above- and belowground competition suppress growth of colonizing plants, belowground competition was the dominant factor in the suppression of the annual Ambrosia artemisiifolia in 2nd-year-old fields near the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station in southwestern Michigan. Despite an ability to persist in later successional fields, seedling transplants of the perennial Achillea millefolium were also suppressed by above- and belowground competition, with belowground competition having the strongest effect. As in many old fields, nitrogen availability is the primary factor limiting plant productivity. There was no clear difference between the species in ability to compete for 15N from an enriched patch, although there was an indication of greater precision of foraging by Achillea. Life history differences between these species and consequent differences in the phenology of root growth relative to other old-field plants are likely to play a large role in the persistence of Achillea in successional fields where Ambrosia is suppressed.
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