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Short-term spatial variation in the demography of a common Neotropical liana is shaped by tree community structure and light availability


We used matrix models to investigate the relation between population dynamics of the liana Mansoa difficilis and environmental factors in fragmented Atlantic forest in Brazil. The fate (growth and mortality) of individuals and the number of new individuals were recorded for 3 years in 100 plots of 10 m × 10 m each. We used multinomial logistic regressions to assess the influence of environmental factors on the fate of individuals in different life stages. Adopting AIC for model selection, we tested a range of models including different groups of environmental variables: soil nutrients, water availability, light availability, and tree community structure. With the fates predicted by the best model, we constructed a matrix model for each plot to calculate population growth rate (λ) in that plot. The average λ was 0.962 for 2012–2013 and 0.941 for 2013–2014, both significantly lower than equilibrium (λ = 1). In both periods, elasticity was higher for survival of large climbers than for other fates. The best models varied between life stages and periods, indicating that the impact of environmental factors on demographic rates changed through time. Model selection suggested that the influence of light availability on λ was less important than tree community structure, which allowed high population growth rates only in a small part of the forest. These findings support the notion that tree community characteristics are the key to understand and predict the observed recent increase in the density of lianas in the Neotropics.

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We are grateful to Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) (PDSE, process no. 99999.001952/2014-05) for the fellowship provided for L. C. Franci during the “Sandwich” Ph.D. Program at Aarhus University, Denmark, and to Ecology Graduate Program of University of Campinas for financial support. We also thank Zulqarnain for the soil depth data, L Pereira for the content of available water data, and MJ Marques-Azevedo for the R code for Moran’s I Index analysis. JCS was supported by the European Research Council (ERC-2012-StG-310886-HISTFUNC) and FRM by Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq 308853/2010-5).

Author information

Correspondence to Luciana de Campos Franci.

Additional information

Communicated by Miguel Franco.



See Tables 6 and 7.

Table 6 Coefficients (Coef), standard error (SE), and P values (Wald test) from multinomial logistic regressions of the environmental filters influencing the fate probabilities of each life stage of the liana Mansoa difficilis in the periods of 2012–2013 and 2013–2014. Significant P values are in bold
Table 7 Akaike information criterion (AIC) for model selection of the fate of each life stage of the liana Mansoa difficilis and environmental set of variables in each plot in the periods of 2012–2013 and 2013–2014. The lowest values of AIC are in bold

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de Campos Franci, L., Nabe-Nielsen, J., Svenning, J. et al. Short-term spatial variation in the demography of a common Neotropical liana is shaped by tree community structure and light availability. Plant Ecol 217, 1273–1290 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0655-0

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  • Brazil Tropical Forest
  • Demography
  • Matrix model
  • Population ecology
  • Woody climber