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Due to its inherent asymmetry, competition for light is thought to cause loss of diversity from eutrophied systems. However, most of the work on this topic in grasslands has been phenomenological and has not measured light directly. We present the results of one of the few mechanistic experiments investigating the outcome of short-term competition using measurements of light interception from monocultures of five perennial grass species grown under fertilized and irrigated conditions. We found that the level of incident light intercepted by each species in monoculture, a direct measure of resource-reduction ability, was an excellent predictor of the relative competitive effect in pairwise mixtures. Competition for light was asymmetric in relation to differences in light intercepting ability. Our results are consistent with the idea that when light is a limiting resource, competition between species for this resource can be asymmetric, contributing to high dominance and low diversity.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Competitive Behavior, Light, Poaceae, Population Density