Document Type




Publication Date




Source Publication

Journal of Ecology

Source ISSN



1. Lianas compete intensely with trees, but few studies have examined long‐term effects of liana infestation on tree growth and mortality. We quantified the effects of lianas in tree crowns (n = 2907) and rooted within 2 m of trees (n = 1086) on growth and mortality of 30 tree species from 1995 to 2005 on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama, documented liana infestation in tree crowns in 1996 and 2007 to determine the dynamics of liana infestation, and quantified liana infestation in the crowns of 3231 additional canopy trees (d.b.h. ≥20 cm) in 2007 to compare with the same metric determined by previous studies in 1967 and 1980.

2. Severe liana infestation increased tree mortality: 21% of liana‐free trees in 1996 had died by 2007, whereas 42% of trees with more than 75% of the crown infested by lianas in 1996 had died by 2007.

3. Liana infestation of tree crowns significantly reduced tree growth, particularly on sun‐exposed trees. The proximity of rooted lianas significantly reduced the growth of shaded trees.

4. Liana infestation was dynamic: 10.9% of trees with severe liana infestation in their crowns in 1996 had shed all of their lianas by 2007 and 5.3% of trees with no lianas in their crown in 1996 had severe liana infestation in 2007.

5. Liana infestation was common: lianas were present in 53% of trees of the 30 focal species. Including lianas rooted within 2 m of the tree increased this percentage to 78%. Using both above‐ and below‐ground measures may provide a better estimate of liana competition than either measure alone.

6. Liana infestation is increasing on BCI. Lianas were present in the crowns of 73.6% of canopy trees (d.b.h. ≥20 cm). Liana canopy infestation was 57% higher than in 1980 and 65% higher than in 1967, which is consistent with reported increases in liana abundance, biomass, and leaf and flower production.

7. Synthesis. We used one of the largest studies ever conducted on lianas to confirm the negative effects of lianas on tree growth and survival over 10 years. Liana infestation of trees was widespread, dynamic and increasing on BCI.


Accepted version. Journal of Ecology, Vol. 98, No. 4 (July, 2010): 879-887. DOI. © 2010 Wiley. Used with permission.

Stefan A. Schnitzer was affiliated with University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at the time of publication.

schnitzer_13062acc.docx (149 kB)
ADA Accessible Version

Included in

Biology Commons