Seedling growth strategies in Bauhinia species: comparing lianas and trees
Annals of Botany
Background and Aims: Lianas are expected to differ from trees in their growth strategies. As a result these two groups of woody species will have different spatial distributions: lianas are more common in high light environments. This study determines the differences in growth patterns, biomass allocation and leaf traits in five closely related liana and tree species of the genus Bauhinia. Methods: Seedlings of two light-demanding lianas (Bauhinia tenuiflora and B. claviflora), one shade-tolerant liana (B. aurea), and two light-demanding trees (B. purpurea and B. monandra) were grown in a shadehouse at 25 % of full sunlight. A range of physiological, morphological and biomass parameters at the leaf and whole plant level were compared among these five species. Key Results: The two light-demanding liana species had higher relative growth rate (RGR), allocated more biomass to leaf production [higher leaf mass fraction (LMF) and higher leaf area ratio (LAR)] and stem mass fraction (SMF), and less biomass to the roots [root mass fraction (RMF)] than the two tree species. The shade-tolerant liana had the lowest RGR of all five species, and had a higher RMF, lower SMF and similar LMF than the two light-demanding liana species. The two light-demanding lianas had lower photosynthetic rates per unit area (Aarea) and similar photosynthetic rates per unit mass (Amass) than the trees. Across species, RGR was positively related to SLA, but not to LAR and Aarea. Conclusions: It is concluded that the faster growth of light-demanding lianas compared with light-demanding trees is based on morphological parameters (SLA, LMF and LAR), and cannot be attributed to higher photosynthetic rates at the leaf level. The shade-tolerant liana exhibited a slow-growth strategy, compared with the light-demanding species.