Results/Conclusions In general the individual foraging response of plants declined with increasing neighbor density. When plants grew individually, they proliferated roots into nutrient patches, and were significantly larger in heterogeneous compared to homogeneous soil. However, heterogeneous soils conferred little growth advantage when plants grew with neighbors, with only one species significantly larger in heterogeneous soils at high stem density. Surprisingly, this species was not the one with the highest foraging response when grown in isolation, suggesting performance of individuals does not necessarily predict the performance of the same species in a community. At the community level, total productivity was significantly enhanced by heterogeneous soil compared to homogeneous soil. However, actual productivity was lower than predicted by the null community. Evenness of our four target species was significantly lowered by both the presence of neighbors, and by heterogeneity. Belowground, the root foraging response of our actual community was lower by about half than was predicted by the null community. These results suggest that plant root foraging behavior has the potential to influence community structure and function but that this effect cannot be predicted from individual responses.
See more of: Contributed Oral Papers