Why are lianas increasing in tropical forest?

In tropical forests, lianas are increasing relative to trees with negative impacts for the diversity, composition, and dynamics of these ecosystems. Despite these major effects, the mechanisms behind are not understood. Therefore, we aim to disentangle them with a combination of empirical research and ecological modeling.

Using canopy cranes in two Panamanian forests with contrasting environmental conditions, we are measuring plant functional traits, phenology, growth, and the environmental conditions of 16 lianas and 16 tree species. We will use these information to characterize differences in plant performance between lianas and trees, and to parameterize a mechanistic growth model to provide physiological and trait based predictions for the resource acquisition and growth of each liana and tree species in response to water, light, and CO2. We will thus identify the mechanisms that drive the increase of lianas, and to understand how water stress, light availability, and ambient CO2 drive this process.

MSc thesis topics