Plant functional trait responses to neighbourhood composition in an experimental forest
Understanding how plants interact with and respond to their environment is the underlying aim of the field of plant ecology. A key factor in any plant’s environment is the proximity, size and identity of their neighbours, with whom they interact over a range of resources. These interactions can be facilitative or competitive, both being very influential on individual and community processes. I will be working at the Australian Forest Evenness Experiment (AFEX), a Southern Tasmanian forest experiment in which the density of four species (Eucalyptus regnans, E. delegatensis, Acacia dealbata and Pomaderris apetala) has been manipulated.
In my study, I will examine the functional traits these trees employ to respond to their neighbours. The traits will be indicative of the differing strategies species use to compete for water, light and nutrients, relative to their close neighbours. This research is important, as the optimisation of productivity in regeneration forests and within forestry practices is necessary for carbon sequestration and improved land use output.