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Climate and hydraulic traits interact to set thresholds for liana viability

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Willson, AM; Trugman, AT; Powers, JS; Smith-Martin, CM; Medvigy, D

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2022

NATURE COMMUNICATIONS

13

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Lianas, or woody vines, and trees dominate the canopy of tropical forests and comprise the majority of tropical aboveground carbon storage. These growth forms respond differently to contemporary variation in climate and resource availability, but their responses to future climate change are poorly understood because there are very few predictive ecosystem models representing lianas. We compile a database of liana functional traits (846 species) and use it to parameterize a mechanistic model of liana-tree competition. The substantial difference between liana and tree hydraulic conductivity represents a critical source of inter-growth form variation. Here, we show that lianas are many times more sensitive to drying atmospheric conditions than trees as a result of this trait difference. Further, we use our competition model and projections of tropical hydroclimate based on Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5 to show that lianas are more susceptible to reaching a hydraulic threshold for viability by 2100. Lianas are an important component of tropical forests. Here the authors compare liana and tree functional trait distributions from across the tropics and use a liana-tree competition model to show that a key hydraulic trait influences liana viability and its response to future climate conditions.

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