Causes and consequences of liana infestation in southern Amazonia

Simone Matias Reis*, Beatriz Schwantes Marimon, Paulo S. Morandi, Fernando Elias, Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert, Ben Hur Marimon Junior, Sophie Fauset, Edmar Almeida de Oliveira, Geertje M.F. van der Heijden, David Galbraith, Ted R. Feldpausch, Oliver L. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Lianas, a key component of tropical forests, can limit growth of trees, impacting both the structure and functioning of forests, and are expected to benefit from fragmentation and potentially from global climatic changes. While it is critical to understand the impacts of liana infestation on contemporary tropical forests across large geographical areas, to date most liana studies have been focussed on single or few sites. We measured and quantified liana infestation of 16,066 trees with diameter ≥10 cm in 27 plots distributed across southern Amazonia, a region characterized by substantial ecological and environmental variation and environmental change. We examined the influence of potential drivers of liana infestation at the plot, species and individual tree level. Additionally, we evaluated the effect of liana infestation on tree growth. More than half of all trees had lianas in their crown. At the plot level, infestation by lianas was driven by forest structure but not by the studied climate or soil fertility variables, though low levels of liana infestation were found in seasonally flooded forests. At the tree level, larger and stouter trees had a greater proportion of their crown infested with lianas. At the species level, trees belonging to intrinsically slow-growing, dense-wooded species were more susceptible to liana infestation. Liana infestation had a negative impact on tree growth, with growth of heavily infested trees reduced by 33% compared to non-infested. The impact of liana infestation on tree growth was strongest for the best-lit tree crowns, indicating that lianas act to reduce the large competitive advantage that well-lit trees otherwise hold over their neighbours. Synthesis. Lianas are a pervasive and influential feature of the extensive forests at the southern edge of Amazonia. The degree of liana infestation in forests was closely linked to species-level variables such as potential growth and wood density as well as the size of the individual tree. The growth of heavily infested trees was particularly restricted by lianas, and especially so for trees growing in otherwise favourable conditions, indicating the potential for lianas not only to reduce forest growth rates overall, but also to modify competitive hierarchies among trees within tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2184-2197
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the team of the Laborat?rio de Ecologia Vegetal?Plant Ecology Laboratory at the UNEMAT campus in Nova Xavantina, especially to Henrique Augusto Mews, Nayane Cristina Prestes, Ana Paula Gomes da Silva, La?s Fernandes de Souza Neves, M?nica Forsthofer, Leonardo Maracahipes, Eder Carvalho das Neves, Bianca de Oliveira, Denis da Silva Nogueira and Ricardo Keichi Umetsu, for help in collecting field data, and to Fernanda Coelho de Souza for help with data analysis. We thank the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for financial support of the projects PELD ?Cerrado-Amazon Forest Transition: ecological and socio-environmental bases for Conservation? (stages II and III)?#403725/2012-7 and #441244/2016-5, PVE ?special visiting researcher? (CNPq 401279/2014-6 & CAPES 177/2012), PPBIO ?Phytogeography of the Amazon-Cerrado Transition Zone? (457602/2012-0) and FAPEMAT (process nr. 164131/2013). O.L.P. acknowledges support from an ERC Advanced Grant 291585 (?T-FORCES'), a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award and a Royal Society International Collaboration Award, ?FORAM?. We also thank CNPq for research productivity grants to B.S.M. and B.H.M.Jr., and international doctoral grants to S.M.R. and P.S.M. We are grateful to CAPES (Finance Code 001) and FAPEMAT for scholarships to S.M.R., P.S.M., F.E. and E.A.d.O. G.M.F.v.d.H. is supported by an Anne McLaren Fellowship from the University of Nottingham. P.S.M. acknowledges support from CAPES to postdoctoral Fellowship (138459/2017 and 185186/2018) and S.M.A. is currently funded by a postdoctoral Fellowship from NERC and FAPESP (BIO-RED 2015/50517-5).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • biomass
  • climate change
  • forest structure
  • habitat fragmentation
  • soil
  • tree mortality
  • wood density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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