Lianas as structural parasites: a re-evaluation

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Chinese Science Bulletin


Lianas are a principal physiognomic component of tropical and subtropical forests and are typically considered to be parasites of trees. In contrast, the substantial contributions of lianas to rainforest leaf litter production (up to 40%) suggests that they play important roles in nutrient cycles and may benefit their host trees. Lianas contribute disproportionately to total forest litter production at least partially because lianas invest relatively little in support structures and proportionately much more to leaf production when compared with trees. Differ from tree leaves, liana leaves are higher in nutrient concentrations, are relatively short-lived, and decompose more rapidly. In addition, the special life form of lianas allows them to move around the forest and relocate nutrients,mainly towards their host trees, through the production of leaf litter. Consequently, lianas may contribute substantially to the high rainforest productivity, and the roles they play in the liana/tree association and rainforest dynamic need to be re-evaluated.

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