Twelve years post-hurricane liana dynamics in an old-growth southeastern floodplain forest

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Forest Ecology and Management


During the 12 years since Hurricane Hugo devastated portions of the old-growth floodplain forest of the Congaree National Park, liana communities have responded to the changes in forest structure. Liana communities were studied across hydrologic and disturbance gradients in eight 1-ha plots established during the winter and spring 1989-1990, and then re-sampled in 1994, 1998, and 2002. In heavily damaged bottomland hardwood forests, liana densities initially decreased when the host trees were severely damaged but exceeded pre-hurricane densities within 12 years. Stem densities of Rhus radicans, the most common liana, initially decreased by 55% in the heaviest damaged bottomland hardwood forests. In both low and high damaged hardwood forests, vine communities have experienced increasing recruitment rates and decreasing mortality rates in the 12 years since the hurricane. When compared with trees and shrubs, lianas appear to have higher stem mortality rates regardless of size in the Congaree floodplain forest. Liana diameter growth rates continue to reflect size- and species-specific differences, as well as colonization patterns and post-hurricane host damage.