A Tragedy of the Commons (ToC) models many systems of human exploitation of natural resources. In a plant-systems application of ToC, multiple plants compete over shared nutrients and space. Tragically these resources become exhausted due to their open-access to multiple plants. Our study focuses on determining whether two competing plants pay a reproductive cost due to ToC. We predict that plants create a ToC and subsequently pay a reproductive cost. We quantify a ToC by measuring a plant’s reproductive mass as well as its total root mass. Typically, ToC lowers reproductive mass and raises total root mass. Our study uses barriers to manipulate interplant competition. One group is grown 1 cm apart to promote root competition and another group is split by impermeable barriers to prevent competition. We specifically used ultra-clear growth medium (Gellan Gum with Hoagland’s solution) in order to photograph roots as they grow in vivo. Root imaging allows for computational analysis of root architecture which we expect to respond to a ToC. Preliminary results of plant masses show no significant effects from competition. This is thought to be due to high soil nutrient values. Hurdles include proving validity of the photographic analysis. The projects future involves optimizing nutrient level and validating photographic analysis via multiple circumferential pictures.
"Oswald Biological Sciences Honorable Mention: A Tragedy Exposed? Clear Growth Medium Reveals Roots Competing,"
Vol. 11, Article 6.
Available at: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/kaleidoscope/vol11/iss1/6