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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Biology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Donald L. DeAngelis - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Leonel da S. L. Sternberg - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Carol Horvitz - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Shigui Ruan - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm - Outside Committee Member


Three general questions are studied regarding plant carbon allocation strategies. (1) The R* Rule states that the superior competitor in a plant community should exclude all others by minimizing available limiting nutrient concentration below the level needed for survival of its competitors. I asked whether a plant carbon allocation strategy that minimizes the concentration of available limiting nutrient is consistent with Lotka's (1922) conjecture that ecosystems should evolve to maximize total energy flow (primary production). (2) In landscapes such as the Everglades, areas of landscape with higher energy flow (primary production) than the surrounding area also have higher available concentrations of limiting nutrient, rather than lower concentrations, which might be expected from the R* rule. I asked whether this pattern can be explained. (3) I asked how optimal allocation of carbon to plant defense allocation strategies might depend on different conditions of nutrient availability, shading, and herbivory. To address all three questions, I used a model revised from the G'DAY model (Comins and McMurtrie 1993) to study tree allocation of carbon resources between foliage, roots, and defense. With regard to the first question, I found that the allocation strategy that leads to minimum concentration of available nutrients is the same as the strategy for which energy flux to roots, rather than total energy flux, is maximized. Further, I found that the strategy that was competitively dominant was neither the strategy for which total energy flux was maximized, nor that for which available nutrient concentration was minimized. With regard to the second question, I found that, if a patch of vegetation on a landscape is able to capture nutrients from the surrounding landscape, for example, through relatively higher evapotranspiration, it could lead to the opposite of what is expected from the R* rule; that is, available limiting nutrient concentration is maximized when carbon flow to the roots is maximized. With regard to the last question, I found that under high herbivory, the optimal plant strategy for allocation of carbon to defense depends on the available nutrient concentration and amount of radiation to the plant, in agreement with some theoretical predictions.


Maximum Powerprinciple; Optimal Energy Allocation; Nutrient Cycling; Plant Competition; Vegetation Modeling; Wetland; Woody Plant Defense