Spatial statistics were used in conjunction with standard plot experimentation to form an approach geared towards testing hypotheses about plant spatial interactions under different treatment conditions. Specifically, correlograms were used to quantify the changing patterns in the spatial distribution of plant size (total vegetative length) among pre-planted individuals within a sand box. A repeated-measures ANOVA procedure was then utilized to test for significant differences between the treatment effects as they evolved over time, where the experimental unit was the correlogram value obtained from within each sand box at a specific lag distance. Separate ANOVA tests were also executed for each spatial lag distance and temporal sampling period. In an example demonstrating both procedures, it was shown that a water-stress treatment provoked positive spatial autocorrelation to emerge up to 24 cm from Panicum amarum plants, while a normal water treatment resulted in no change in spatial structure. The difference between the two treatments, and the spatial correlograms of their total vegetative length values, were significant (P = 0.0007). The temporal divergence of the treatments, as spatial patterns evolved, was also significant (P < 0.0001). The approach discussed in this experiment is well suited for evaluating the statistical significance of treatment effects upon the spatial structure of interacting individuals, in both greenhouse and natural settings.
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