Questions: How do gap aspect, openness, age and gap density in the surroundings affect diversity and composition of lianas within treefall gaps? Are the variation patterns in liana communities within treefall gaps associated with their climbing mechanisms?
Location: Subtropical montane forests in northwestern Argentina.
Methods: We used ordination analyses (NMDS) and multiple regressions to describe liana communities (species and climbing groups, stems ≥ 1 cm) in 35 gaps located in a 6-ha plot and to assess relationships with aspect, canopy and subcanopy openness, age and density of recent (three to eight years old) and old (> 8 years old) gaps.
Results: Treefall gaps segregated in the ordination diagrams based on their liana species and climbing mechanisms composition: gaps surrounded by a higher density of recent gaps showed higher densities of lianas species using tendrils, spines / hooks and voluble stems. Liana density and richness (independent of stem density) were also positively associated with the density of recent gaps in the surroundings, and negatively associated to gap age. The number of liana species corrected per area was negatively associated to gap aspect and subcanopy openness, and absolute number of liana species was positively associated to gap canopy openness.
Conclusions: This study integrates the analysis of different factors influencing liana communities within treefall gaps, and shows that spatial context of gap density (a variable largely neglected in previous studies) is particularly important on lianas composition and diversity, probably by increasing propagule input and the availability of small trellises for support.
Nomenclature: Zuloaga & Morrone (1999).