Examining the competitive abilities of cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) in a growth chamber experiment.

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för ekologi, miljö och geovetenskap

Abstract: Competition between different species (interspecific competition) is an important factor to consider when estimating population trends, geographic distributions, and management options of species. Many historically common vascular plant species found in agricultural environments have been negatively affected by changes in community composition and in turn, changes in competition pressures. Even so, the relative importance of plant competition in an ecological context is still unclear. In this study I examine the competitive ability of the meadow plant cornflower (Centaurea cyanus L.) when grown together with common oat (Avena sativa) and common poppy (Papaver rhoeas), during a seven-week long growth chamber experiment. Seeds were sown in pots in four different setups; 1) C. cyanus control, 2) C. cyanus + P. rhoeas, 3) C. cyanus + A.sativa, 4) All three species. Six different growth parameters were measured (aboveground dry-weight, belowground dry-weight, root length, leaf area, number of leaves and above/belowground dry-weight ratio). I found that growth rates of C. cyanus were significantly inhibited according to all six growth parameters when C. cyanus competed solely with A. sativa. Competition from P. rhoeas had an insignificant effect on C. cyanus growth in five out of six growth parameters. Finally, I discuss the possibility that historically common meadow plants have declined in abundance in part because of weak competitive abilities, and that rare vascular plant species are negatively affected by growing in proximity with cereal crops.

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