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Root and leaf traits reflect distinct resource acquisition strategies in tropical lianas and trees

Journal Article

Collins C.G; Wright S.J; Wurzburger N

2016

Oecologia

180

1037-1047

In Neotropical forests lianas are increasing in abundance relative to trees. This increased species richness may reflect a positive response to global change factors including increased temperature atmospheric CO2 habitat fragmentation and drought severity; however questions remain as to the specific mechanisms facilitating the response. Previous work suggests that lianas may gain an ecological advantage over trees through leaf functional traits that offer a quick return on investment of resources although it is unknown whether this pattern extends to root traits and relationships with fungal or bacterial symbionts belowground. We sampled confamilial pairs of liana and tree species and quantified morphological and chemical traits of leaves and fine roots as well as root symbiont abundance to determine whether functional traits associated with resource acquisition differed between the two. Compared to trees lianas possessed higher specific leaf area specific root length root branching intensity and root nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations and lower leaf and root tissue density leaf and root carbon (C) root diameter root C:P and N:P and mycorrhizal colonization. Our study provides new evidence that liana leaf and root traits are characterized by a rapid resource acquisition strategy relative to trees. These liana functional traits may facilitate their response to global change raising questions about how increased liana dominance might affect ecosystem processes of Neotropical forests.

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Support

The Liana Ecology Project is supported by Marquette University and funded in part by the National Science Foundation.