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Ecological Society of America

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Lianas in tropical forests compete intensely with trees for above‐ and belowground resources and limit tree growth and regeneration. Liana competition with adult canopy trees may be particularly strong, and, if lianas compete more intensely with some tree species than others, they may influence tree species composition. We performed the first systematic, large‐scale liana removal experiment to assess the competitive effects of lianas on multiple tropical tree species by measuring sap velocity and growth in a lowland tropical forest in Panama. Tree sap velocity increased 60% soon after liana removal compared to control trees, and tree diameter growth increased 25% after one year. Although tree species varied in their response to lianas, this variation was not significant, suggesting that lianas competed similarly with all tree species examined. The effect of lianas on tree sap velocity was particularly strong during the dry season, when soil moisture was low, suggesting that lianas compete intensely with trees for water. Under the predicted global change scenario of increased temperature and drought intensity, competition from lianas may become more prevalent in seasonal tropical forests, which, according to our data, should have a negative effect on most tropical tree species.


Published version. Ecology, Vol. 96, No. 1 (January 1, 2015): 39-45. DOI. © 2015 Ecological Society of America. Used with permission.

Stefan Schnitzer was affiliated with the University of Wisconsin School of Freshwater Sciences, Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the time of publication.

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