Effect of liana cutting on water potential and growth of adult Senna multijuga (Caesalpinioideae) trees in a Bolivian tropical forest
Lianas, or woody climbing plants, are a major constituent of seasonally dry tropical forests, and are thought to impact negatively their host trees. In this study we evaluated whether liana presence was associated with reduced leaf water potentials and growth in adult Senna multijuga trees during the dry season in a lowland Bolivian forest. We used leaf water potentials in trees as a first approach to assess trees' water status, under the assumption that leaf water potentials become more negative when water losses (via transpiration) exceed gains (by uptake). We measured relative growth in girth at 1.5 m height (gbh) to quantify tree growth. At the beginning of the 1996 dry season (early June), we selected 20 S. multijuga trees 10-20 cm dbh, and measured their gbh. We also recorded pre-dawn and mid-day leaf water potentials in these trees. In ten experimental trees all lianas were then cut, while the remaining trees were used as controls. Pre-dawn and mid-day water potentials were re-measured 1 day after liana-cutting, and then every week in all trees for 1 month and then at 3 and 5 months, until the beginning of the next rainy season (November); gbh was measured again in July 1997 to estimate relative growth rate. Liana removal was associated with less negative pre-dawn (-0.3 vs -0.4 MPa) and mid-day (-0.5 vs -0.7 MPa) water potentials in trees during the dry season. This difference appeared as early as 1 day after cutting, and disappeared once the rainy season began. Liana-cut trees grew more (0.4 mm/mm year) than liana-uncut trees (0.2 mm/mm year). These findings suggest that lianas may interfere with water availability to these trees during the dry season, and may also hinder tree growth.