Horizontal, but not vertical, biotic interactions affect fine-scale plant distribution patterns in a low-energy system

Peter C. Le Roux, Jonathan Lenoir, Loïc Pellissier, Mary S. Wisz, Miska Luoto

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Studies of species range determinants have traditionally focused on abiotic variables (typically climatic conditions), and therefore the recent explicit consideration of biotic interactions represents an important advance in the field. While these studies clearly support the role of biotic interactions in shaping species distributions, most examine only the influence of a single species and/or a single interaction, failing to account for species being subject to multiple concurrent interactions. By fitting species distribution models (SDMs), we examine the influence of multiple vertical (i.e., grazing, trampling, and manuring by mammalian herbivores) and horizontal (i.e., competition and facilitation; estimated from the cover of dominant plant species) interspecific interactions on the occurrence and cover of 41 alpine tundra plant species. Adding plant-plant interactions to baseline SDMs (using five field-quantified abiotic variables) significantly improved models' predictive power for independent data, while herbivore-related variables had only a weak influence. Overall, abiotic variables had the strongest individual contributions to the distribution of alpine tundra plants, with the importance of horizontal interaction variables exceeding that of vertical interaction variables. These results were consistent across three modeling techniques, for both species occurrence and cover, demonstrating the pattern to be robust. Thus, the explicit consideration of multiple biotic interactions reveals that plant-plant interactions exert control over the fine-scale distribution of vascular species that is comparable to abiotic drivers and considerably stronger than herbivores in this low-energy system. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)671-682
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Alpine
  • Arctic
  • Competition
  • Disturbance
  • Facilitation
  • Herbivory
  • Mountain tundra
  • Species distribution modeling
  • Trophic interactions
  • alpine environment
  • arctic environment
  • disturbance
  • ecological modeling
  • facilitation
  • plant-herbivore interaction
  • population distribution
  • species occurrence
  • trophic interaction
  • tundra
  • vascular plant
  • animal
  • article
  • biological model
  • classification
  • demography
  • ecosystem
  • Finland
  • herbivory
  • plant
  • plant physiology
  • Animals
  • Arctic Regions
  • Demography
  • Ecosystem
  • Models, Biological
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants
  • Mammalia
  • biotic interaction
  • competition
  • fine-scale distribution
  • grazing
  • horizontal biotic interaction
  • interspecific interaction
  • mammalian herbivore
  • manuring
  • species distribution
  • trampling
  • vertical biotic interaction
  • Dicotyledones Angiospermae Spermatophyta Plantae (Angiosperms, Dicots, Plants, Spermatophytes, Vascular Plants) - Cruciferae [25880] alpine tundra plant common
  • Plantae (Plants, Vascular Plants) - Tracheophyta [22000] vascular plant common
  • 04500, Mathematical biology and statistical methods
  • 07502, Ecology: environmental biology - General and methods
  • 07506, Ecology: environmental biology - Plant
  • 10515, Biophysics - Biocybernetics
  • 50528, Botany: general and systematic - Floristics and distribution
  • Computational Biology
  • Ecology, Environmental Sciences
  • Population Studies
  • species distribution model mathematical and computer techniques
  • Biogeography
  • Models and Simulations
  • Terrestrial Ecology
  • BIOTIC communities

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