What tree rings can tell us about the competition between trees and lianas? A case study based on growth, anatomy, density, and carbon accumulation. 


Venegas-González, A., Brancalion, P. H., Junior, A. A., Chagas, M. P., Junior, C. R. A., Chaix, G., & Tomazello Filho, M. 





In tropical forest, landscape fragmentation and the consequent degradation of disturbed forests increase the incidence of light and dry hot winds, causing a disturbance on natural regeneration. Under these conditions, lianas (woody vines) development is stimulated instead of other species, which are more suited to mature forest and under less influence of the edge effect. For this, lianas colonization is an important variable for assessing the disturbance level of a forest. In this context, it becomes important to understand the nature of the competitive relationships between hyper-abundant lianas and ring growth of the host trees. Here, we selected trees with occupation or absence of lianas from two tropical species – Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis (Caribbean pine) and Tectona grandis (teak) – localized in a semideciduous forest fragment in southeastern Brazil, aiming to compare growth, climatic response, anatomy (vessels and intra-annual density fluctuations), wood density and carbon, by tree-ring analysis. The results showed that the lianas caused a change in tree-ring anatomy of host trees in last 10 years, mainly. We observed that trees occupied by lianas had a decrease the radial growth and carbon in the two species, an increase of the vessels size in teak and a decrease of the IADF frequency in Caribbean pine. In teak, the climate-tree relationship indicated that trees with lianas had lower response to rainfall and higher response to temperature in the summer (rainy and hottest period); in Caribbean pine, we observed that trees with lianas had a 2-month delay in the radial growth response to rainfall in the dry season. In the teak group, we observed that host trees had higher wood density values than liana-free tree in the outer rings, and the opposite was showed for pine. These findings show that tree-ring growth of host trees are a strong bioindicator of forest disturbance caused by aggressive colonization of lianas. We believe that these methods are applicable to future studies relating to the effects of habitat fragmentation and forest degradation on biodiversity and ecosystem services, particularly in the context of global climate change.