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Disturbance and clonal reproduction determine liana distribution and maintain liana diversity in a tropical forest

Journal Article

Ledo A; Schnitzer SA

2014

Ecology

95

2169-2178

Negative density dependence (NDD) and habitat specialization have received\r\nstrong empirical support as mechanisms that explain tree species diversity maintenance and distribution in tropical forests. In contrast disturbance appears to play only a minor role. Previous studies have rarely examined the relative strengths of these diversity maintenance mechanisms concurrently and few studies have included plant groups other than trees. Here we used a large spatially explicit data set from Barro Colorado Island Panama (BCI) to test\r\nwhether liana and tree species distribution patterns are most consistent with NDD habitat specialization or disturbance. We found compelling evidence that trees responded to habitat specialization and NDD; however only disturbance explained the distribution of the majority of liana species and maintained liana diversity. Lianas appear to respond to disturbance with high vegetative (clonal) reproduction and a liana species’ ability to produce clonal stems following disturbance results in a clumped spatial distribution. Thus clonal reproduction\r\nfollowing disturbance explains local liana spatial distribution and diversity maintenance on\r\nBCI whereas negative density dependence and habitat specialization two prominent\r\nmechanisms contributing to tree species diversity and distribution do not.

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Support

The Liana Ecology Project is supported by Marquette University and funded in part by the National Science Foundation.