Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Philip Crowley

Second Advisor

Dr. Nicholas McLetchie

Abstract

Existing research shows that plants produce less root when growing alone than when growing in competition with other plants. When plants under root competition over-allocate resources to roots at the cost of reproduction, it represents a Tragedy of the Commons. I constructed simulation models to determine the circumstances likely to give rise to a Tragedy of the Commons, and explore mechanisms by which plants may solve it. I grew plants in nutrient-rich transparent gel, allowing me to quantify root growth and development without destructive sampling. My plants responded positively to additional space and the presence of a competitor at full nutrient treatment levels, and negatively to those same conditions between low phosphorus treatment levels, demonstrating nutrient mediation of the direction of plant response to an added competitor with additional space. This effect may feature self / non-self recognition by roots. Since the hard barrier in these studies blocks nutrients, roots, and root signaling compounds from passing between the plants in the barrier treatment level, existing studies cannot tease apart the effects on plant development of these individual factors. I add a semi-permeable membrane treatment level, which allows nutrients and signaling compounds to pass while preventing root growth between sides.

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