Title of symposium:
Lianas and their impact on ecosystem processes

Elizabeth Kearsley
Ghent University, Belgium

Geertje van der Heijden
University of Nottingham, UK

Rachael Gallagher
Macquarie University, Australia

Symposium Summary
Lianas (woody climbers) are structural parasites and an important component of tropical forests. Due to their strong competition with trees for above and belowground resources, lianas can have a large effect on tree diversity, recruitment, growth and survival, which can further impact tree community composition, carbon storage and carbon, nutrient and water fluxes. Furthermore, recent research from the Neotropics has indicated that lianas are proliferating in abundance and biomass. Although the drivers behind this liana increase are currently not fully understood, liana proliferation itself can endanger the future of the tropical carbon sink as lianas reduce carbon sequestration and storage in these forests. As tropical forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle, this in turn may lead to increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which may have serious implications for climate change. A better understanding of both the impact of lianas on different ecosystem processes and the mechanisms behind the increase in liana dominance relative to trees in tropical forests is therefore pertinent to better predict the fate of tropical forests in a changing climate.

This session will gather scientists to discuss the recent research developments in the field of liana ecology with the aim to: 1) Synthesize the current knowledge of the impact of lianas on ecosystem processes in tropical forests. 2) Integrate current knowledge on the functional differences between lianas and trees. 3) Propose potential mechanisms for the increase in liana abundance and biomass. 4) Discuss the incorporation of lianas and their effects into vegetation models.

List of speakers and presentation titles:

  1. Frans Bongers: Pervasive decline in lianas in Congo basin contrasts with global patterns
  2. Chris Chandler: Linking landscape-scale liana infestation to carbon storage using airborne hyperspectral imagery
  3. Frank Sterck: Branch development helps explaining the greater success of lianas over trees in dry forest compared to wet forest
  4. Manfredo di Porcia e Brugnera: Drivers of liana abundance, testing different hypothesis in a modeling framework
  5. Sergio Estrada Villegas: Lianas decrease biomass accumulation in early successional tropical forests