Variation in liana abundance and biomass along an elevational gradient in the tropical Atlantic Forest (Brazil)
Alves LF; Assis MA; van Melis J; Barros AL; Vieira SA
Lianas play a key role in forest structure species diversity as well as functional aspects of tropical forests. Although the study of lianas in the tropics has increased dramatically in recent years basic information on liana communities for the Brazilian Atlantic Forest is still scarce. To understand general patterns of liana abundance and biomass along an elevational gradient (0–1100 m asl) of coastal Atlantic Forest we carried out a standard census for lianas =1 cm in five 1-ha plots distributed across different forest sites. On average we found a twofold variation in liana abundance and biomass between lowland and other forest types. Large lianas (=10 cm) accounted for 26–35% of total liana biomass at lower elevations but they were not recorded in montane forests. Although the abundance of lianas displayed strong spatial structure at short distances the present local forest structure played a minor role structuring liana communities at the scale of 0.01 ha. Compared to similar moist and wet Neotropical forests lianas are slightly less abundant in the Atlantic Forest but the total biomass is similar. Our study highlights two important points: (1) despite some studies have shown the importance of small-scale canopy disturbance and support availability the spatial scale of the relationships between lianas and forest structure can vary greatly among tropical forests; (2) our results add to the evidence that past canopy disturbance levels and minimum temperature variation exert influence on the structure of liana communities in tropical moist forests particularly along short and steep elevational gradients.