Community and ecosystem ramifications of increasing lianas in neotropical forests
Schnitzer SA; Bongers F; Wright SJ
Plant Signaling and Behavior
Lianas (woody vines) are increasing in neotropical forests representing one of the first large-scale structural changes documented for these important ecosystems. The potential ramifications of increasing lianas are huge as lianas alter both tropical forest diversity and ecosystem functioning. At the community level lianas affect tree species co-existence and diversity by competing more intensely with some tree species than others and thus will likely alter tree species composition. At the ecosystem level lianas affect forest carbon and nutrient storage and fluxes. A decrease in forest carbon storage and sequestration may be the most important ramification of liana increases. Lianas reduce tree growth and increase tree mortality – thus reducing forest-level carbon storage. The increase in lianas which have much less wood than trees compensates only partially for the amount of carbon lost in the displaced trees. Because tropical forests contribute approximately a third of global terrestrial carbon stocks and net primary productivity the effect of increasing lianas for tropical forest carbon cycles may have serious repercussions at the global scale.