Intraspecific Competition: The response of the sun Essay

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Intraspecific Competition: The response of the sunflower (genus Helianthus) to increasing density

INTRASPECIFIC COMPETION: THE RESPONSE OF THE SUNFLOWER (genus HELIANTHUS) TO INCREASING DENSITY.


INTRODUCTION

All species, including plants, are impacted by density. Plants, of course, cannot leave
their habitat as animals can, so they tend to respond in different ways to density. As
populations grow more dense, they compete for resources such as food and space and are
more prone to disease. Less dense populations are more susceptible to predation pressure.


It is hypothesized that as plants in small spaces compete for space, the plants compensate
by reducing individual stem weight and frequency of bud formation as density increases.
This would be intraspecific competition. A factor is density-dependent when it kills more
of a population at higher densities and less at lower densities (Stilling 2002). The
factor of competition between individual plants of the same species would be considered
density dependent.


METHODS

The experiment was designed to test the hypothesis by planting an increasing number of
genus Helianthus (sunflower) seeds in pots to see how they respond to increased density in
limited space. Two replicates each of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128 seeds were planted in
similar size pots containing an equal mix of potting soil and perlite. All plants were
kept in greenhouse conditions exposed to similar light and temperatures settings and were
watered at equivalent intervals. At the end of the time period each pot was evaluated for
number of seeds that had germinated as well as number of stems with blooms. Stems and
blooms were cut and weighed.


RESULTS

Table 1 shows averages of each replicate for each series of seeds relating to mortality
rate/germination rate, budding rate, and mean plant weight (total, with buds, and without
buds).


Figure 1 indicates an increasing mortality rate (positive slope) in plants as density
increases; Figure 2 shows the corresponding germination rate reflecting the exact opposite
trend. Mortality remains zero until 8 seeds are planted (6% mortality), then is reduced to
zero at 16 seeds then increases to 14 percent (32 seeds), 32 percent (64 seeds), and more
than half (57 %--128 seeds).


Figure 3 shows a dramatic decrease in bud formation of approximately 20 percent from four
to eight seed plantings, followed by slight decreases of 3 percent of less in bud
formation as significantly greater quantities of seeds are planted.


Figure 4 reflects a decreasing mean weight per plant as density of planted seeds
increases-- from a high of 11.73 grams (2 seeds) decreasing gradually from between 3 to .5
percent intervals to a low of 1.88 grams (128 seeds). Figure 5 breaks the weight down by
plants with buds and plants without buds, continuing to show a relationship between
decreasing weight as more seeds are planted. In addition, a trend is noted that average
weight of plants with buds are always higher than average weight of plants without buds.
The most significant variance was seen when two seeds were planted and all plants had buds
while the least variance was when 64 seeds were planted (avg. weight with buds—2.24
grams, avg. weight without bud—2.05 grams).


DISCUSSION

An increase in density appears to show an overall corresponding decrease in average plant
yield by weight as well as percentage of germination of seeds of the sunflower species
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