Editor’s Choice: Volume 108 Issue 6

The Editor’s Choice article for Volume 108, Issue 6 of Journal of Ecology is “Causes and consequences of liana infestation in southern Amazonia” by Reis et al.

Here we highlight the key findings of this research, which evaluated the potential for lianas in southern Amazonia to reduce forest growth rates. 

Lianas are a key component of tropical forests – but they can limit growth of trees. They are also expected to benefit from fragmentation and potentially from global climatic changes. It is critical to understand the impacts of liana infestation on contemporary tropical forests across large geographical areas.

This study is the first to evaluate large-scale liana infestation across southern Amazonia. The researchers quantified liana infestation in more than 16,000 trees from 27 study plots distributed in remaining forests along the southern edge of the Amazon. As well as deforestation, the region is marked by climate change, having recently experienced several severe droughts and rising temperatures.

Liana in southern Amazonia. Photo: Ben Hur Marimon Junior.

The findings of this research revealed that more than half of all trees growing on the southern edge of the Amazon are infested by lianas. As a consequence, the growth of these trees is reduced by an average of one third.

“Lianas have always been a natural feature of the extensive southern edge of the Amazon, but deforestation has broken the remaining forests into small remnants. This fragmentation can generate an increase in lianas, affecting the survival of the remaining trees”, explains lead author, Dra. Simone Matias Reis.

“Lianas make it difficult for trees to absorb carbon. When they reach the canopy, their leaves can cover the trees and starve them of light. This reduces the natural capacity of the forest to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Liana wrapped around trunk of host tree. Photo: Ben Hur Marimon Junior.

Read the full article online: Causes and consequences of liana infestation in southern Amazonia by Reis et al. (2020)

You can also read the press release for this article on the BES News site.

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