Lianas Significantly Reduce Tree Performance and Biomass Accumulation Across Tropical Forests: A Global Meta-Analysis
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Lianas are a quintessential tropical plant growth-form; they are speciose and abundant in tropical forests worldwide. Lianas compete intensely with trees, reducing nearly all aspects of tree performance. However, the negative effects of lianas on trees have never been combined and quantified for multiple tropical forests. Here, we present the first comprehensive standardized quantification of the effect of lianas on trees across tropical forests worldwide. We used data from 50 liana removal experiments and quantified the effect size of lianas on tree growth, biomass accretion, reproduction, mortality, leaf water potential, sap flow velocity, and leaf area index (LAI) across different forest types. Using a three-level mixed-effect meta-analysis, we found unequivocal evidence that lianas significantly reduce tree growth and biomass accretion in ecological, logging, and silvicultural studies. Lianas also significantly reduce tree reproduction, recruitment, and physiological performance. The relative detrimental effect of lianas on trees does not increase in drier forests, where lianas tend to be more abundant. Our results highlight the substantial liana-induced reduction in tree performance and biomass accumulation, and they provide quantitative data on the effects of lianas on trees that are essential for large-scale plant demographic and ecosystem models that predict forest change and carbon dynamics.