Ecophysiological traits may explain the abundance of climbing plant species across the light gradient in a temperate rainforest
Gianoli E; Saldaña A; Jimenez M
Climbing plants are a key component of rainforests but mechanistic approaches to their distribution and abundance are\nscarce. In a southern temperate rainforest we addressed whether the dominance of climbing plants across light\nenvironments is associated with the expression of ecophysiological traits. In mature forest and canopy gaps we measured\nleaf size specific leaf area photosynthetic rate and dark respiration in six of the most abundant woody vines. Mean values\nof traits and their phenotypic change (%) between mature forest and canopy gaps were predictor variables. Leaf size and\nspecific leaf area were not significantly associated with climbing plant dominance. Variation in gas-exchange traits between\nmature forest and canopy gaps explained at least partly the dominance of climbers in this forest. A greater increase in\nphotosynthetic rate and a lower increase in dark respiration rate when canopy openings occur were related to the success\nof climbing plant species. Dominant climbers showed a strategy of maximizing exploitation of resource availability but\nminimizing metabolic costs. Results may reflect phenotypic plasticity or genetic differentiation in ecophysiological traits\nbetween light environments. It is suggested that the dominant climbers in this temperate rainforest would be able to cope\nwith forest clearings due to human activities.