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Ecology Letters

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DOI: 10.1111/ele.14008


The well-established pattern of forest thinning during succession predicts an increase in mean tree biomass with decreasing tree density. The forest thinning pattern is commonly assumed to be driven solely by tree-tree competition. The presence of non-tree competitors could alter thinning trajectories, thus altering the rate of forest succession and carbon uptake. We used a large-scale liana removal experiment over 7 years in a 60- to 70-year-old Panamanian forest to test the hypothesis that lianas reduce the rate of forest thinning during succession. We found that lianas slowed forest thinning by reducing tree growth, not by altering tree recruitment or mortality. Without lianas, trees grew and presumably competed more, ultimately reducing tree density while increasing mean tree biomass. Our findings challenge the assumption that forest thinning is driven solely by tree-tree interactions; instead, they demonstrate that competition from other growth forms, such as lianas, slow forest thinning and ultimately delay forest succession.


Accepted version. Ecology, Vol. 25, No. 6 (June 2022): 1432-1441. DOI. © 2022 Wiley. Used with permission.

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