Citation Jones IL, Peres CA, Benchimol M, Bunnefeld L & Dent D (2017) Woody lianas increase in dominance and maintain compositional integrity across an Amazonian dam-induced fragmented landscape, PLoS ONE, 12 (10), Art. No.: e0185527.
Abstract Tropical forest fragmentation creates insular biological communities that undergo species loss and changes in community composition over time, due to area- and edge-effects. Woody lianas thrive in degraded and secondary forests, due to their competitive advantage over trees in these habitats. Lianas compete both directly and indirectly with trees, increasing tree mortality and turnover. Despite our growing understanding of liana-tree dynamics, we lack detailed knowledge of the assemblage-level responses of lianas themselves to fragmentation, particularly in evergreen tropical forests. We examine the responses of both sapling and mature liana communities to landscape-scale forest insularization induced by a mega hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian Amazon. Detailed field inventories were conducted on islands created during reservoir filling, and in nearby mainland continuous forest. We assess the relative importance of variables associated with habitat fragmentation such as area, isolation, surrounding forest cover, fire and wind disturbance, on liana community attributes including abundance, basal area, diversity, and composition. We also explore patterns of liana dominance relative to tree saplings and adults ≥10 cm diameter at breast height. We find that 1) liana community composition remains remarkably similar across mainland continuous forest and islands, regardless of extreme area- and edge- effects and the loss of vertebrate dispersers in the latter; and 2) lianas are increasing in dominance relative to trees in the sapling layer in the most degraded islands, with both the amount of forest cover surrounding islands and fire disturbance history predicting liana dominance. Our data suggest that liana communities persist intact in isolated forests, regardless of extreme area- and edge-effects; while in contrast, tree communities simultaneously show evidence of increased turnover and supressed recruitment. These processes may lead to lianas becoming a dominant component of this dam-induced fragmented landscape in the future, due to their competitive advantage over trees in degraded forest habitats. Additional loss of tree biomass and diversity brought about through competition with lianas, and the concurrent loss of carbon storage, should be accounted for in impact assessments of future dam development.