Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Plants and the Past

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Plants and the Past

Article excerpt

It is commonly known that plants interact with each other on an everyday basis: They shade each other out or take up nutrients from the soil before their neighbors can get to them. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) have learned that plants also respond to the past.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Emily Farrer, Deborah Goldberg, and Aaron King modeled four years of population fluctuations in four species common to the Michigan dry sand prairie to determine how plants interacted with each other. They found that plants tended to compete, or negatively affect one another, over the summer, fall, and spring; but the researchers also found that the more crowded together plants were in one growing season, the more their growth was enhanced the following year.

"For example, if a species had a large, dense population a year ago, this would promote current population growth, even though the plants are currently competing," says Farrer, a graduate student in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. …

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