Lianas and their supporting plants in the understorey at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico

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Journal of Tropical Ecology


Lianas are woody climbing plants that begin their life cycles as seedlings rooted in the ground, but eventually rely on other plants for physical support in order to reach the top of the forest canopy (Holbrook & Putz 1996, Putz & Holbrook 1991). Lianas can negatively affect plants they climb by competing with them for common resources such as light, water and nutrients, and by causing them direct physical damage (Dillenburg et al. 1995, Pérez-Salicrup & Barker 2000, Stevens 1987, Whigham 1984). Yet, there is little documentation about the size at which liana individuals of different species begin to climb on other plants in nature. This information is important because the size at which a liana begins to climb on other plants will determine when lianas potentially start physically affecting their supporting plants. Furthermore, although the growth of liana seedlings might be determined by light (Sanches & Válio 2002), the availability of support will also largely influence the rate of growth of liana stems (Peñalosa 1982, 1983, 1985). Thus, information about the size at which liana species find support in the forest understorey will be useful in understanding future growth of liana individuals.