Tamm review: Tree interactions between myth and reality

Arne Pommerening, Andrew J. Sánchez Meador

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


For a long time, interaction between plants in both general plant and forest science has been somewhat limited to competition, although an intuitive, non-scientific understanding of facilitation has influenced the development of a wide range of forest management techniques including silvicultural systems. Despite this, competition has dominated many ecological theories and the interpretation of density effects. Ongoing research in tree mechanics and in verifying the stress-gradient hypothesis reveal that our understanding of tree interactions is still incomplete. Promising research is currently underway attempting to uncover the physiological receptors and processes related to interaction whilst in the past largely plant performance, e.g. plant size and growth rates, was used for verifying competition. We give an overview of quantification methods and suggest a standardisation by common construction principles. Plant performance has been much used for providing empirical evidence of interactions, but when used in isolation it can be a confounding criterion leading to misinterpretations despite promising new developments in quantifying tree interaction. We therefore suggest using pattern-oriented modelling in analyses of tree interactions, where several plant traits are applied simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-176
Number of pages13
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Sep 15 2018


  • Competition
  • Competition indices
  • Ecological field theory
  • Facilitation
  • Herd immunity theories
  • Interaction
  • Interaction kernels
  • Janzen-Connell
  • Mode of interaction
  • Niche theory
  • Overyielding
  • Point process statistics
  • Self thinning
  • Stress-gradient hypothesis
  • Tree mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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