Lianas and self-supporting plants during tropical forest succession

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Forest Ecology and Management


Lianas (woody vines) are an important component of tropical forests, with a strong impact on forest dynamics, but their responses during forest succession have received relatively little attention. Here, we present an analysis of the changes in stem density, biomass, and species richness of lianas and self-supporting plants during tropical forest succession. We surveyed lianas ≥0.5 cm diameter at breast height (dbh) and self-supporting plants ≥2.5 cm dbh in 0.1 ha inventory plots in a chronosequence of 30 sites in northeastern Costa Rica, 23 sites on abandoned pastures 10–44 years of age, and seven sites in old-growth forest. Stem density of self-supporting plants showed no predictable chronosequence trend, but liana stem density declined significantly with forest age. Aboveground biomass of self-supporting vegetation increased rapidly during succession, with forests 31–44 years exhibiting higher levels of biomass than old-growth forests. Liana biomass accumulated more slowly, with the highest levels in old-growth sites. Species richness of self-supporting vegetation increased significantly during succession, but species richness of lianas showed no change or a slight decline with forest age, depending on the method of assessment. The differences between tree and liana responses during succession stem from the unique physiology and life history traits of lianas.

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