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Change in liana density over 30 years in a Bornean rain forest supports the escape hypothesis


Newbery, DM; Zahnd, C






Liana dynamics may influence tree dynamics and vice versa. Only long-term studies can perhaps disentangle them. In two permanent plots of lowland dipterocarp forest at Danum, a liana census in 1988 was repeated in 2018. The primary forest was still in a late stage of recovery from an inferred large and natural disturbance in the past. Mean number of lianas per tree decreased by 22% and 34% in plots 1 and 2, and in different ways. By 2018, there were relatively more trees with few lianas and relatively fewer trees with many lianas than in 1988. The redistribution was strongest for overstory trees of the Dipterocarpaceae (more with no lianas by 2018) and understory trees of the Euphorbiaceae (many losing high loads in especially plot 2). Proportion of trees with lianas increased overall by 3.5%. The number of lianas per tree showed a quadratic relationship with tree size: maximal for large trees, and fewer for smaller and very large trees. Tree survival and stem growth rate were significantly negatively related to the number of lianas after accounting for spatial autocorrelation. Monte Carlo random subsampling of trees in 1988 and 2018, to achieve statistical independence, established significance of change. Dipterocarps and euphorbs clearly differed in their liana dynamics between plots. Regression models had different forms for the two plots, which reflected a complicated structural-spatial variability in host-liana dynamics. Analysis of the abundant tree species individually highlighted a group of emergent dipterocarps with low liana counts decreasing with time. Building on an earlier hypothesis for this forest type and site, these very large trees appear to have been losing their lianas by branch shedding, as they moved into and out of the main canopy. They were evidently escaping from the parasite. The process may in part explain the characteristically very uneven forest canopy at Danum. Change in liana density was therefore contingent on both forest history and site succession, and plot-level structure and tree dynamics. Liana promotion in the intermittent ENSO dry periods was seemingly being offset by closing of the forest and dominance by dipterocarps in late seral stages.


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