In any ecological study, target organisms are usually impacted by multiple environmental drivers. In plant interaction research, recent debate has focussed on the importance of competition; that is, its role in regulating plant success relative to other environmental drivers. Despite being clearly and specifically defined, the apparently simple concept of the importance of competition has been commonly overlooked, and its recognition has helped reconcile long-running debates about the dependence of competition on environmental severity. In this review, we argue that extending this formalised concept of importance to other aspects of ecology would be beneficial. We discuss approaches for measuring importance, and provide examples where explicit acknowledgement of this simple concept might promote understanding and resolve debate.
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