Tropical dry forest succession and the contribution of lianas to wood area index (WAI)
Forest Ecology and Management
The transmission and interception of light through the canopy is an important indicator of forest productivity in tropical forest ecosystems, and the amount of light that eventually reaches the forest floor is influenced by its interactions with leaves, branches, fruits, and flowers among many different canopy elements. While most studies of forest canopy light interception focus on leaf area index (LAI), very few studies have examined wood area index (WAI), which may account for a substantial component of light interception in tropical forests. The influence of lianas on the interception of light and their overall contribution to WAI is a potentially important factor, but it is generally overlooked because of its difficulty to assess. In this paper we evaluate the relative contribution that lianas have to the overall WAI and canopy openness as function of successional stage via a latitudinal comparison of sites across the Americas (Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil). Our results suggest that lianas significantly increase WAI and decreases canopy openness. However, lianas were absent at all of our study sites where canopy openness exceeded 60%. Our data are the first to explicitly document the role of lianas in the estimation of WAI and, overall, they will contribute to better estimations of ecosystem level LAI in tropical environments, where there is a lack of data on WAI.