Spatiotemporal dynamics of lianas during 50 years of succession to temperate forest

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Although they are important components of forest communities, the general ecology and spatiotemporal patterns of temperate lianas during forest regeneration are largely unknown. The dependence of lianas on other plants for physical support makes them a potentially important driver of community dynamics. We examined 50 years of vegetation data from an old-field succession study to determine the dynamics and community controls on liana expansion within the Piedmont region of New Jersey, USA. Four lianas, Lonicera japonica, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Toxicodendron radicans, and Vitis spp., occurred in enough abundance for detailed analyses. In general, liana cover peaked during mid-succession (20–30 years post-abandonment) when community composition was mostly herbaceous with scattered trees and shrubs. Liana cover began to decrease as trees became dominant and the canopy closed. Temporal patterns of cover dynamics of abundant species indicated three early- and one late-successional liana species within the community. In contrast to cover, frequency of lianas increased throughout succession, indicating that liana populations persisted despite dramatic declines in cover for the three early-successional species. Temporal dynamics between native and nonnative lianas were similar but spatially distinct as cover of native species dispersed and expanded near the forest edge while the nonnative species preferentially grew far from the forest. These dynamics indicate that successional processes may ultimately lead to the decline of most lianas. However, the persistence of lianas as high numbers of suppressed individuals suggests that they may rebound quickly following canopy disturbance.

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