Document Type




Publication Date



Ecological Society of America

Source Publication


Source ISSN



Negative density dependence (NDD) and habitat specialization have received strong empirical support as mechanisms that explain tree species diversity maintenance and distribution in tropical forests. In contrast, disturbance appears to play only a minor role. Previous studies have rarely examined the relative strengths of these diversity maintenance mechanisms concurrently, and few studies have included plant groups other than trees. Here we used a large, spatially explicit data set from Barro Colorado Island, Panama (BCI) to test whether liana and tree species distribution patterns are most consistent with NDD, habitat specialization, or disturbance. We found compelling evidence that trees responded to habitat specialization and NDD; however, only disturbance explained the distribution of the majority of liana species and maintained liana diversity. Lianas appear to respond to disturbance with high vegetative (clonal) reproduction, and liana species' ability to produce clonal stems following disturbance results in a clumped spatial distribution. Thus, clonal reproduction following disturbance explains local liana spatial distribution and diversity maintenance on BCI, whereas negative density dependence and habitat specialization, two prominent mechanisms contributing to tree species diversity and distribution, do not.


Published version. Ecology, Vol. 95, No. 8 (August 1, 2014): 2169-2178. DOI. © 2014 Ecological Society of America. Used with permission.

Stefan Schnitzer was affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Department of Biological Sciences at the time of publication.

schnitzer_13039acc.docx (322 kB)
ADA Accessible Version

Included in

Biology Commons