Liana competition with tropical trees varies seasonally but not with tree species identity

Leonor Álvarez-Cansino, Stefan A. Schnitzer, Joseph P. Reid, Jennifer S. Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Lianas in tropical forests compete intensely with trees for above- and belowground resources and limit tree growth and regeneration. Liana competition with adult canopy trees may be particularly strong, and, if lianas compete more intensely with some tree species than others, they may influence tree species composition. We performed the first systematic, large-scale liana removal experiment to assess the competitive effects of lianas on multiple tropical tree species by measuring sap velocity and growth in a lowland tropical forest in Panama. Tree sap velocity increased 60% soon after liana removal compared to control trees, and tree diameter growth increased 25% after one year. Although tree species varied in their response to lianas, this variation was not significant, suggesting that lianas competed similarly with all tree species examined. The effect of lianas on tree sap velocity was particularly strong during the dry season, when soil moisture was low, suggesting that lianas compete intensely with trees for water. Under the predicted global change scenario of increased temperature and drought intensity, competition from lianas may become more prevalent in seasonal tropical forests, which, according to our data, should have a negative effect on most tropical tree species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the Ecological Society of America.


  • Barro Colorado National Monument, Panama
  • Competition
  • Competitive effects
  • Liana removal
  • Sap velocity
  • Tree growth
  • Tropical forest


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