A physiological approach to study the competition ability of the grassland species Trifolium pratense and Agrostis capillaris


The response of plant species to external factors depends partly on the interaction with the environment and with the other species that coexist in the same ecosystem. Several studies have investigated the main traits that determine the competitive capacity of plant species, and although the relevance of the traits is not clear, traits both from belowground and aboveground have been observed. In this paper, we grew Trifolium pratense and Agrostis capillaris in intra- and interspecific competition, analyzing the photosynthetic metabolism and nitrogen uptake, among other variables. The results indicated that T. pratense possesses better competition ability due to the higher competitive performance for soil resources compared to A. capillaris, explained by a higher root biomass and a higher nitrogen uptake rate in the former than in the latter. These traits permitted T. pratense to show higher photosynthetic rate than A. capillaris when both species were grown in mixture. Furthermore, the interspecific competition provoked A. capillaris to activate its antioxidant metabolism, through SOD activity, to detoxify the reactive oxygen species generated due to its lower capacity for using the photochemical energy absorbed. In this experiment, we conclude that the competitiveness seems to be more related with soil resources competition than with light competition, and that the photosynthetic rate decline in A. capillaris is more a secondary effect as a consequence of nitrogen limitation.

Journal of Plant Physiology, (254), pp. 153284, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jplph.2020.153284