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Forest Ecology and Management

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Lianas can have a large impact on the diversity, structure, and dynamics of tropical forests, yet they remain essentially unknown even in some of the most intensely studied tropical forests, such as La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. We quantified the diversity, abundance, and mortality of lianas in primary and selectively logged forest at La Selva for over 3 years, from January 1999 until July 2002. We measured, identified, permanently marked, and mapped all lianas ≥1.3 m in length and 2 mm in diameter, whether climbing or free-standing, in nine, m (864 m2) plots. There were no significant differences in density, diversity, or mortality between primary forest and areas that were selectively logged approximately 50 years prior to our study. We found a mean density of 1493 lianas ha−1 and a mean species richness of 23 species per 864 m2 plot. Annual mortality was 9.4% over all size-classes, but was the highest for the smallest individuals (<2 cm in diameter). Annual mortality for larger individuals (≥5 cm) was much lower over the 3.5-year period (3.2% per year) and the five most abundant species suffered no mortality in this size-class. In contrast to many lowland neotropical forests, where Bignoniaceae and Fabaceae are reported to be the dominant liana families, at La Selva we found that Sapindaceae was the most speciose family and Dilleniaceae the most abundant. Moutabea aculeata (Polygalaceae) was the most abundant species, constituting approximately 17% of the individuals and having the lowest mortality of all 60 species. The 10 most abundant species at La Selva accounted for more than 60% of all individuals. Compared to other lowland sites in the neotropics, including other wet forests, the abundance and diversity of lianas at La Selva are very low.


Accepted version. Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 190, No. 1 (2004): 3-14. DOI. © 2004 Elsevier. Used with permission.

Stefan A. Schnitzer was affiliated with University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee at the time of publication.

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