Elevated carbon dioxide is predicted to promote coexistence among competing species in a trait-based model

Ashehad A. Ali, Belinda E. Medlyn, Thomas G. Aubier, Kristine Y. Crous, Peter B. Reich

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Abstract

Differential species responses to atmospheric CO₂ concentration (Cₐ) could lead to quantitative changes in competition among species and community composition, with flow-on effects for ecosystem function. However, there has been little theoretical analysis of how elevated Cₐ (eCₐ) will affect plant competition, or how composition of plant communities might change. Such theoretical analysis is needed for developing testable hypotheses to frame experimental research. Here, we investigated theoretically how plant competition might change under eCₐ by implementing two alternative competition theories, resource use theory and resource capture theory, in a plant carbon and nitrogen cycling model. The model makes several novel predictions for the impact of eCₐ on plant community composition. Using resource use theory, the model predicts that eCₐ is unlikely to change species dominance in competition, but is likely to increase coexistence among species. Using resource capture theory, the model predicts that eCₐ may increase community evenness. Collectively, both theories suggest that eCₐ will favor coexistence and hence that species diversity should increase with eCₐ. Our theoretical analysis leads to a novel hypothesis for the impact of eCₐ on plant community composition. This hypothesis has potential to help guide the design and interpretation of eCₐ experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4717-4733
Number of pages17
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume5
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • elevated CO₂
  • plant competition
  • species diversity
  • species traits

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