Above- and below-ground competition between the liana Acacia kameruensis and tree seedlings in contrasting light environments

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Plant Ecology


Proliferation of lianas in canopy gaps can restrict tree regeneration in tropical forests through competition. Liana effects may differ between tree species, depending on tree requirements for above- and below-ground resources. We conducted an experiment in a shade house over 12 months to test the effect of light (7 and 27% external irradiance) on the competitive interactions between seedlings of one liana species and three tree species and the contribution of both above- and below-ground competition. Seedlings of the liana Acacia kamerunensis were grown with tree seedlings differing in shade tolerance: Nauclea diderrichii (Pioneer), Khaya anthotheca (Non-Pioneer Light Demander) and Garcinia afzelii (Non-Pioneer Shade Bearer). Trees were grown in four competition treatments with the liana: no competition, root competition, shoot competition and root and shoot competition. Both root and root–shoot competition significantly reduced relative growth rates in all three tree species. After one year, root–shoot competition reduced growth in biomass to 58% of those (all species) grown in no competition. The root competition treatment had amore important contribution in the effect of the liana on tree growth. Tree seedlings did not respond to competition with the liana by altering their patterns of biomass allocation. Although irradiance had a great effect on tree growth and allocation of biomass, the interaction between competition treatments and irradiance was not significant. Nauclea diderrichii, the tree species which responded most to the effects of competition, showed signs of being pot-bound, the stress of which may have augmented the competition effects. The understanding of the interaction of above- and below-ground competition between lianas and trees and its moderation by the light environment is important for a proper appreciation of the influence of lianas on tropical forest regeneration.

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