Skip to main content Accessibility help

The demography of a dominant Amazon liana species exhibits little environmental sensitivity

  • Luciana de Campos Franci (a1), Jens-Christian Svenning (a2), Henrik Balslev (a2), Fernando Roberto Martins (a3) and Jacob Nabe-Nielsen (a4)...


Despite its high plant diversity, the Amazon forest is dominated by a limited number of highly abundant, oligarchic tree and liana species. The high diversity can be related to specific habitat requirements in many of the less common species, but fewer studies have investigated the characteristics of the dominant species. To test how environmental variation may contribute to the success of dominant species we investigated whether the vital rates of the abundant liana Machaerium cuspidatum is sensitive to canopy height, topographic steepness, vegetation density, soil components and floristic composition across an Ecuadorian Amazon forest. The population was inventoried in 1998 and in 2009. Plants were divided into seedling-sized individuals, non-climbers and climbers. Out of 448 seedling-sized plants 421 died, 539 of 732 non-climbers died, and 107 of 198 climbers died. There was weak positive effect of dense understorey on the relative growth rate of climbers. The mortality of seedling-sized plants was higher in areas with intermediate slope, but for larger plants mortality was not related to environmental variation. The limited sensitivity of the vital rates to environmental gradients in the area suggests that ecological generalism contributes to the success of this dominant Amazonian liana.


Corresponding author

1Corresponding author:


Hide All
BALDECK, C. A., HARMS, K. E., YAVITT, J. B., JOHN, R., TURNER, B. L., VALENCIA, R., NAVARRETE, H., DAVIES, S. J., CHUYONG, G. B. & KENFACK, D. 2013. Soil resources and topography shape local tree community structure in tropical forests. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 280:20122532.
BURNHAM, R. J. 2002. Dominance, diversity and distribution of lianas in Yasuní, Ecuador: who is on top? Journal of Tropical Ecology 18:845864.
BURNHAM, R. J. & ROMERO-SALTOS, H. G. 2015. Diversity and distribution of lianas in Yasuní, Ecuador. Pp. 5064 in Schnitzer, S. A., Bongers, F., Burnham, R. J. & Putz, F. E. (eds.). Ecology of lianas. Wiley Blackwell, Oxford.
CASTELLANOS, A. 1991. Photosynthesis and gas exchange of vines. Pp. 181204 in Putz, F. E. & Mooney, H. A. (eds.). The biology of vines. Cambridge University Press, New York.
DE CACERES, M. & LEGENDRE, P. 2008. Beals smoothing revisited. Oecologia 156:657669.
DUQUE, A., CAVELIER, J. & POSADA, A. 2003. Strategies of tree occupation at a local scale in terra firme forests in the Colombian Amazon. Biotropica 35:2027.
GIANOLI, E. 2015. The behavioural ecology of climbing plants. AoB plants: plv013.
JOHN, R., DALLING, J. W., HARMS, K. E., YAVITT, J. B., STALLARD, R. F., MIRABELLO, M., HUBBELL, S. P., VALENCIA, R., NAVARRETE, H., VALLEJO, M. & FOSTER, R. B. 2007. Soil nutrients influence spatial distribution of tropical tree species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104:864869.
KRISTIANSEN, T., SVENNING, J.-C., EISERHARDT, W. L., PEDERSEN, D., BRIX, H., MUNCH KRISTIANSEN, S., KNADEL, M., GRÁNDEZ, C. & BALSLEV, H. 2012. Environment versus dispersal in the assembly of western Amazonian palm communities. Journal of Biogeography 39:13181332.
LAURANCE, W. F., ANDRADE, A. S., MAGRACH, A., CAMARGO, J. C., VALSKO, J. J., CAMPBELL, M., FEARNSIDE, P. M., EDWARDS, W., LOVEJOY, T. E. & LAURANCE, S. G. 2014. Long-term changes in liana abundance and forest dynamics in undisturbed Amazonian forests. Ecology 95:16041611.
LEGENDRE, P. & GALLAGHER, E. D. 2001. Ecologically meaningful transformations for ordination of species data. Oecologia 129:271280.
LOZANO, P. & KLITGAARD, B. B. 2006. The genus Machaerium (Leguminosae: Papilionoideae: Dalbergieae) in Ecuador. Brittonia 58:124150.
MACÍA, M. J. & SVENNING, J.-C. 2005. Oligarchic dominance in western Amazonian plant communities. Journal of Tropical Ecology 21:613626.
NABE-NIELSEN, J. 2001. Diversity and distribution of lianas in a neotropical rain forest, Yasuní National Park, Ecuador. Journal of Tropical Ecology 17:119.
NABE-NIELSEN, J. 2002. Growth and mortality rates of the liana Machaerium cuspidatum in relation to light and topographic position. Biotropica 34:319322.
NABE-NIELSEN, J. 2004. Demography of Machaerium caspidatum, a shade-tolerant liana. Journal of Tropical Ecology 20:505516.
NABE-NIELSEN, J. & HALL, P. 2002. Environmentally induced clonal reproduction and life history traits of the liana Machaerium cuspidatum in an Amazonian rain forest, Ecuador. Plant Ecology 162:215226.
PHILLIPS, O. L., MARTÍNEZ, R. V., ARROYO, L., BAKER, T. R., KILLEEN, T., LEWIS, S. L., MALHI, Y., MENDOZA, A. M., NEILL, D., VARGAS, P. N., ALEXIADES, M., CERÓN, C., FIORE, A. D., ERWIN, T., JARDIM, A., PALACIOS, W., SALDIAS, M. & VINCETI, B. 2002. Increasing dominance of large lianas in Amazonian forests. Science 418:770774.
PHILLIPS, O., BAKER, T., ARROYO, L., HIGUCHI, N., KILLEEN, T., LAURANCE, W., LEWIS, S., LLOYD, J., MALHI, Y. & MONTEAGUDO, A. 2004. Pattern and process in Amazon tree turnover, 1976–2001. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 359:381407.
PHILLIPS, O. L., ARAGÃO, L. E., LEWIS, S. L., FISHER, J. B., LLOYD, J., LÓPEZ-GONZÁLEZ, G., MALHI, Y., MONTEAGUDO, A., PEACOCK, J. & QUESADA, C. A. 2009. Drought sensitivity of the Amazon rainforest. Science 323:13441347.
PITMAN, N. C., TERBORGH, J. W., SILMAN, M. R., NÚÑEZ, V. P., NEILL, D. A., CERÓN, C. E., PALACIOS, W. A. & AULESTIA, M. 2001. Dominance and distribution of tree species in upper Amazonian terra firme forests. Ecology 82:21012117.
PUTZ, F. E. 1984. The natural history of lianas on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Ecology 65:17131724.
QUEENBOROUGH, S. A., BURSLEM, D. F., GARWOOD, N. C. & VALENCIA, R. 2007. Habitat niche partitioning by 16 species of Myristicaceae in Amazonian Ecuador. Plant Ecology 192:193207.
SCHNITZER, S. A. & BONGERS, F. 2002. The ecology of lianas and their role in forests. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17:223230.
SCHNITZER, S. A., VAN DER HEIJDEN, G. M. F., MASCARO, J. & CARSON, W. P. 2014. Lianas in gaps reduce carbon accumulation in a tropical forest. Ecology 95:30083017.
SVENNING, J.-C. 1999. Microhabitat specialization in a species-rich palm community in Amazonian Ecuador. Journal of Ecology 87:5565.
SVENNING, J.-C. 2002. Crown illumination limits the population growth rate of a neotropical understorey palm (Geonoma macrostachys, Arecaceae). Plant Ecology 159:185199.
SVENNING, J.-C., HARLEV, D., SØRENSEN, M. M. & BALSLEV, H. 2009. Topographic and spatial controls of palm species distributions in a montane rain forest, southern Ecuador. Biodiversity and Conservation 18:219228.
TER STEEGE, H., PITMAN, N. C., SABATIER, D., BARALOTO, C., SALOMÃO, R. P., GUEVARA, J. E., PHILLIPS, O. L., CASTILHO, C. V., MAGNUSSON, W. E. & MOLINO, J.-F. 2013. Hyperdominance in the Amazonian tree flora. Science 342:1243092.
TOBIN, M. F., WRIGHT, A. J., MANGAN, S. A. & SCHNITZER, S. A. 2012. Lianas have a greater competitive effect than trees of similar biomass on tropical canopy trees. Ecosphere 3: art20.
TUOMISTO, H., POULSEN, A. D., RUOKOLAINEN, K., MORAN, R. C., QUINTANA, C., CELI, J. & CAÑAS, G. 2003. Linking floristic patterns with soil heterogeneity and satellite imagery in Ecuadorian Amazonia. Ecological Applications 13:352371.
VAN REEUWIJK, L. 2002. Procedures for soil analysis. International Soil Reference and Information Centre, Wageningen. 197 pp.
VORMISTO, J., PHILLIPS, O., RUOKOLAINEN, K., TUOMISTO, H. & VÁSQUEZ, R. 2000. A comparison of fine-scale distribution patterns of four plant groups in an Amazonian rainforest. Ecography 23:349359.
ZUUR, A., IENO, E. N., WALKER, N., SAVELIEV, A. A. & SMITH, G. M. 2009. Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. Springer Science & Business Media, New York. 574 pp.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The demography of a dominant Amazon liana species exhibits little environmental sensitivity

  • Luciana de Campos Franci (a1), Jens-Christian Svenning (a2), Henrik Balslev (a2), Fernando Roberto Martins (a3) and Jacob Nabe-Nielsen (a4)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.