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Data from: Long-term dynamics of liana seedlings suggest decelerating increases in liana relative abundance over time

Citation

Umaña, Maria Natalia; Manzané-Pinzón, Eric; Comita, Liza (2019), Data from: Long-term dynamics of liana seedlings suggest decelerating increases in liana relative abundance over time, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k3j9kd53k

Abstract

  1. Over the past decades, tropical forests have experienced both compositional and structural changes. In the Neotropics, researchers at multiple sites have observed significant increases in the abundance and biomass of lianas (i.e. woody vines) relative to trees. However, the role of dynamics at early life stages in contributing to increasing liana abundance remains unclear. 
  2. We took advantage of a unique dataset on seedling dynamics over 16 years in ~20,000 1-m2plots in a tropical forest in Panama to examine temporal and spatial trends in liana and tree seedling abundance. 
  3. We found that the relative abundance of liana seedlings increased across the study period, from 0.18 in 2001 to 0.24 in 2017. However, increases in liana seedling relative abundance appear to have leveled off in more recent years. The observed increases in liana relative abundance appear to be the result of both higher survival and higher recruitment rates of liana seedlings compared to tree seedlings.
  4. Increasing liana abundance in the seedling layer was not explained by annual variation in dry season length, total rainfall, or the proportion of area occupied by canopy gaps. In addition, liana seedlings did not exhibit a demographic advantage (i.e., higher recruitment or survival) over tree seedlings in dry habitats. 
  5. Synthesis:Our results reveal that seedling communities experienced important compositional changes in the past, but liana seedling relative abundance may have stabilized in recent years. Longer-term monitoring is needed to determine whether tropical forests will continue to experience compositional changes that may alter forest structure and ecosystem function.