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Lianas (woody vines) can have profound effects on tree recruitment, growth, survival, and diversity in tropical forests. However, the dynamics of liana colonization soon after land abandonment are poorly understood, and thus it is unknown whether lianas alter tree regeneration early in succession. We examined the liana community in 43 forests that ranged from 1 to 31 yr old in central Panama to determine how fast lianas colonize young forests and how the liana community changes with forest succession. We found that lianas reached high densities early in succession, commonly exceeding 1000 stems/ha within the first 5 yr of forest regeneration. Lianas also increased rapidly during early succession in terms of basal area but did not show evidence of saturation within the 30 yr of our chronosequence. The relative contribution of lianas to total woody plant community in terms of basal area and density increased rapidly and reached a saturation point within 5 yr (basal area) to 15 yr (density) after land abandonment. Our data demonstrate that lianas recruit early and in high density in tropical forest regeneration, and thus lianas may have a large effect on the way in which secondary forests develop both early and throughout succession.


Accepted version. Biotropica, Vol. 47, No. 6 (November 2015) : 672-680. DOI. © 2015 Wiley. Used with permission.

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