Calibrating the liana crown occupancy index in Amazonian forests
Forest Ecology and Management
Lianas hold an important, but understudied, role in forest dynamics, however they are difficult to measure and detailed liana measurements are time consuming. Many researchers have therefore used an ordinal scale index, the crown occupancy index (COI), to describe the liana load carried by trees. Here we assess the overall effectiveness, in terms of accuracy, precision, repeatability and efficiency, of the COI in tropical forests. We relate the COI to more detailed liana measurements at the individual tree-level and site-level, comparing sites with different levels of liana infestation. Our results show (1) that the COI accurately measures individual tree and plot level liana loads, indicated by the strong correlations between the COI and the number and basal area of lianas. However, (2) as expected, the COI is only weakly related to the basal area of lianas rooted close to the tree, which is a proxy for competition for below-ground resources. The COI is also (3) an efficient measure of liana loads, as the input time needed for a COI survey is considerably less than that of a detailed liana survey. We also (4) found a high degree of repeatability in COI classification between observers. Additionally (5), the COI can be used to differentiate between sites in terms of their overall liana canopy competition (precision), but (6) may not be a precise indicator of the site-level mean basal area of lianas in tree crowns.