Lianas as structural parasites: A re-evaluation
Yong T; Kitching RL; Cao M
Chinese Science Bulletin
Lianas are a principal physiognomic component of tropical and subtropical forests and are typically considered to be parasites of trees. In contrast the substantial contribution of lianas to rainforest leaf litter production (up to 40%) suggests that they play important roles in nutrient cycles and may benefit their host trees. Lianas contribute disproportionately to total forest litter production at least partially because lianas invest relatively little in support structures and proportionately much more to leaf production when compared with trees. In contrast to tree leaves liana leaves are higher in nutrient concentrations relatively short-lived and decompose more rapidly. In addition the special life form of lianas allows them to grow vertically and horizontally in the forest and relocate nutrients mainly towards their host trees through the production of leaf litter. Consequently lianas may contribute substantially to the high rainforest productivity and the roles they play in liana/tree associations and rainforest dynamics needs to be re-evaluated.