A couple of days ago, we visited Gigante Peninsula with Stefan Schnitzer, and it was a treat to hear directly from him about his work with plots of forest where vines were subtracted. I think his project design is particularly interesting due to the abundance of this plant, the interaction that is played with trees, and the role they take part in the restructure of tropical forests.
Lianas have a strong resource competition against trees, above ground with leaves and below ground with root competition. This plants have the secondary most abundant fine root network. Also, mostly they are not soil specialized, and are ubiquitous. They do not have negative dependence at stem level, have a good system of water storage which allows them to survive during dry season, and can adapt to different levels of light. I am very fascinated by the Morpho-physiological traits that vines have developed, and think that they make the rainforest look particularly amazing– but would I really want to see a scenario where lianas take over?
With the experiment design of Dr. Schnitzer, it has been suggested that when vines are removed, trees increases plant SAP and a higher turn over. There are multiple approaches and collaborations within this research. For example, one related with the effect of lianas on tropical invertebrate communities, by Dr. Steve Yanoviak, who is also investigating the potential benefits of parasitic vines as lighting rods.
On a walk in the forest in BCI the previous day, Andy Jones pointed out a light gap where a bunch of lianas have established, and mentioned that the gap has been there for some time. The same day, we visited the deceased “big tree,” where there are a fair number of vines that did not die when they fell from the canopy, and they actually multiply in the surroundings. If we take a look to the work of of Dr Schitzer and his team, in treefall gaps, it is been suggested that lianas suppress tree recruitment, growth, regeneration and diversity, and thus may have a widespread impact in tropical forests.
The last couple of days got me thinking about the impact of lianas on tree dynamics and forest regeneration. With the ongoing environmental changes,I wonder if the tropical forest we leave for future generations will consist of a jungle of lianas, with a new set of species composition.
Anyway, I am sure you guys have very interesting thoughts, according to your particular interest around this topic, and would like to hear what are your ideas about it.
Thank you for reading,
Resources and additional links:
Liana Ecology Project
Lianas in Gaps Reduce Carbon Accumulation in a Tropical Forest
arts and science research blog- Steve Yanoviak
STRI news – Vines choke forest ability to capture carbon