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Removing climbers more than doubles tree growth and biomass in degraded tropical forests

Cite this dataset

Finlayson, Catherine et al. (2023). Removing climbers more than doubles tree growth and biomass in degraded tropical forests [Dataset]. Dryad.


Huge areas of tropical forests are degraded, reducing their biodiversity, carbon, and timber value. The recovery of these degraded forests can be significantly inhibited by climbing plants such as lianas. Removal of super-abundant climbers thus represents a restoration action with huge potential for application across the tropics. While experimental studies largely report positive impacts of climber removal on tree growth and biomass accumulation, the efficacy of climber removal varies widely, with high uncertainty as to where and how to apply the technique. Using meta-analytic techniques, we synthesise results from 26 studies to quantify the efficacy of climber removal for promoting tree growth and biomass accumulation. We find that climber removal increases tree growth by 156% and biomass accumulation by 209% compared to untreated forest, and that efficacy remains for at least 19 years. Extrapolating from these results, climber removal could sequester an additional 32 Gigatons of CO2 over 10 years, at low cost, across regrowth and production forests. Our analysis also revealed that climber removal studies are concentrated in the Neotropics (N=22), relative to Africa (N=2) and Asia (N=2), preventing our study from assessing the influence of region on removal efficacy. While we found some evidence that enhancement of tree growth and AGB accumulation varies across disturbance context and removal method, but not across climate, the number and geographical distribution of studies limits the strength of these conclusions. Climber removal could contribute significantly to reducing global carbon emissions and enhancing the timber and biomass stocks of degraded forests, ultimately protecting them from conversion. However, we urgently need to assess the efficacy of removal outside the Neotropics and consider the potential negative consequences of climber removal under drought conditions and for biodiversity.


Dataset collected from published articles and associated data. Response data (treatment and control) and variance has then been converted into effect size (standardised mean difference) using metafor and R packages (Viechtbauer, 2010; Del Re, 2013). Missing variances were imputed using linear relationships between variance, mean growth and sample size. Imputation was run 10 times, generating 10 sets of imputed SD and SS for the tree growth and biomass datasets. Climate variables were calculated from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) (Harris et al., 2020), and elevation was calculated from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), using the site coordinates with a 1 km buffer (Jarvis et al., 2008). Dataset includes calculations from correction to original article.

Usage notes

finlayson_climber_removal_tree_growth_effect_size: This includes the data required for running the tree growth models: mean tree growth, variance (SD), effect sizes (g and variance), and all variables included in the models in the manuscript. 10 sets of imputed SD and sample sizes are also included, with the corresponding effect sizes.

finlayson_climber_removal_biomass_effect_size which includes data required to run the biomass analysis in the original article in which we calculate the SMD effect size (models for Objective 1.2 and 2.2; repeated for each set of imputed SD and SS).

finlayson_climber_removal_biomass_RR which includes data required to run the biomass analyses from the correction in which we calculate the response ratio effect size.

finlayson_climber_removal_study_metadata which gives a summary of the studies included in the analyses.

finlayson_climber_removal_global_extrapolation which outlines the calculation, justification and references used to estimate global carbon sequestration potential of climber removal; includes both original and corrected calculations.