Questions: Do lianas alter the relative success of tree species during regeneration? Are the effects of lianas on tree seedlings moderated by canopy openness? How are patterns of biomass allocation in tree seedlings affected by liana competition?
Location: Tropical moist semi-deciduous forest in Ghana.
Methods: Seedlings of the trees Nauclea diderrichii (pioneer), Khaya anthotheca (non-pioneer light demander) and Garcinia kola (non-pioneer shade bearer) were planted with the lianas Acacia kamerunensis (fast growing) and Loeseneriella rowlandii (slow growing) in large and small gaps (ca. 15% and 8% PAR respectively) and in the forest understorey (ca. 4% PAR). Seedling survival, growth and biomass allocation were measured.
Results: Canopy openness moderated the interaction between liana and tree seedlings. The nature of the interaction was both liana and tree species specific and displayed temporal variation. Acacia competition effects were stronger in sites with greater canopy openness. In big gaps, Acacia reduced significantly the biomass of Nauclea by 32% and Khaya by about 50%. Khaya growth in leaf area was five times greater without Acacia, while Nauclea and Garcinia were not affected. Acacia was more plastic than Loeseneriella in response to the environment and the tree species. Our results show that while Loeseneriella, with lower rates of growth, did not affect seedling growth of the three species evaluated, Acacia could alter the relative success of tree species during regeneration.
Conclusions: There is evidence that competitive effects by Acacia on tree regeneration through competition could modify tree species capacity to establish. Effects by lianas at the regeneration phase may have important implications for forest management.