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Distribution and effects on tree growth of lianas and woody hemiepiphytes in a Costa Rican tropical wet forest

  • David B. Clark (a1) and Deborah A. Clark (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2009

We evaluated occurrence and abundance of lianas and woody hemiepiphytes on canopy and emergent tree species in primary tropical wet forest at the La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. Two pioneers, Cecropia obtusifolia and C. insignis, lacked both lianas and hemiepiphytes. The seven non-pioneer species differed significantly in their loads of lianas and hemiepiphytes. For all non-pioneer species, two measures of liana and hemiepiphyte loads (the percentage of the crown occupied and the combined basal area of descending hemiepiphyte and liana roots and stems) increased significantly with tree diameter. In all non-pioneer species, most trees ∵ 70 cm diameter (50–97%) were colonized. Lianas occupied more trees and had a smaller mean host diameter than did hemiepiphytes; however, basal area of descending roots or stems was equivalent for the two life forms in occupied trees. We used partial correlations controlling for tree diameter to evaluate the relationship between annual tree diameter growth and loads of hemiepiphytes and lianas for six non-pioneer species. Five of the six species showed a significant negative correlation between loads and diameter growth. Existing published data show that the high incidence of lianas and hemiepiphytes at La Selva is paralleled in most other Neotropical wet forests.


Evaluamos la presencia y abundancia de lianas y hemiepífitas lenosas en especies de árboles del dosel en el bosque muy húmedo tropical de la Estación Biológica La Selva, Costa Rica. Dos especies pioneras, Cecropia obtusifolia y C. insignis, no presentaron lianas o hemiepífitas. Las otras siete especies no-pioneras mostraron diferencias significativas en la cantidad de lianas y hemiepífitas. Para las especies no-pioneras, dos índices de la cantidad total de lianas y hemiepífitas (el porcentaje de la copa ocupado, y el área basal de todas las lianas y hemiepífitas combinadas) aumentaron significativamente de acuerdo con el diámetro del árbol. Para estas, la mayoría de los individuos >70 cm en diámetro (50–97%) tuvieron lianas o hemiepífitas lenosas. Las lianas occuparon más individuos que las hemiepífitas, y a la vez sus hospederos fueron en promedio de menor diámetro. No obstante, las áreas basales de las raíces de las hemiepífitas y de los tallos de las lianas que llegaban al suelo, fueron equivalentes entre estas dos clases de plantas. Usamos correlatión parcial, controlando el diámetro de árbol, para evaluar la relación entre crecimiento anual en diámetro de los árboles y la cantidad de lianas y hemiepífitas. En cinco de las seis especies examinadas hallamos una relación significativa y negativa entre el crecimiento y la cantidad total de lianas y hemiepífitas. Los datos publicados indican que la alta frecuencia de lianas y hemiepífitas encontrada en La Selva es similar a la mayoría de los bosques húmedos neotropicales.

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