Tragedy of the Commons (ToC) is the exploitation of an open-access resource that is exploited by selfish individuals to the detriment of all. Examples include open sea fisheries, cattle grazing, pollution, deforestation and plants competing over shared soil nutrients and space. Tragically, these resources become depleted and plants become severely resource limited. Our study seeks to determine if a ToC causes two plants sharing resources to reproduce less successfully than two plants owning the equivalent amount of personal resources. We predict that plant root competition creates a ToC by increasing root mass while reducing reproductive mass. Our study uses impermeable barriers to manipulate competition. We used transparent growth medium (Gellan Gum with Hoagland’s nutrient solution) in order to photograph roots as they grew in vivo. Root imaging allowed for computational analysis of root architecture which we expect to respond to the ToC. Our results from root and seed masses revealed no significant effects from competition. This could be explained by excessively high soil nutrient levels. Additionally, we failed to validate the photographic analysis platform (SmartRoot) with a hand measured model. Future direction includes optimizing soil nutrient levels and conducting a better photographic analysis based on multiple circumferential pictures.
Karounos, Christopher H.; Miller, Deric; Crowley, Philip; and McLetchie, Nicholas
"A Tragedy Exposed? Clear Growth Medium Reveals Competing Roots,"
Vol. 11, Article 92.
Available at: http://uknowledge.uky.edu/kaleidoscope/vol11/iss1/92