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Lianas are a quintessential feature of tropical forests and are often perceived as being poorly studied. However, liana removal studies may be one of the most common experimental manipulations in tropical forest ecology. In this review, we synthesize data from 64 tropical liana removal experiments conducted over the past 90 yr. We explore the direction and magnitude of the effects of lianas on tree establishment, growth, survival, reproduction, biomass accretion, and plant and animal diversity in ecological and forestry studies. We discuss the geographical biases of liana removal studies and compare the various methods used to manipulate lianas. Overall, we found that lianas have a clear negative effect on trees, and trees benefitted from removing lianas in nearly every study across all forest types. Liana cutting significantly increased light and water availability, and trees responded with vastly greater reproduction, growth, survival, and biomass accumulation compared to controls where lianas were present. Removing lianas during logging significantly reduced damage of future merchantable trees and improved timber production. Our review demonstrates that lianas have an unequivocally detrimental effect on every metric of tree performance measured, regardless of forest type, forest age, or geographic location. However, lianas also appear to have a positive contribution to overall forest plant diversity and to different animal groups. Therefore, managing lianas reduces logging damage and improves timber production; however, the removal lianas may also have a negative effect on the faunal community, which could ultimately harm the plant community.


Accepted version. Biotropica, Vol. 50, No. 5 (September 2018): 729-739. DOI. © 2018 Wiley. Used with permission.

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