Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 307–312

Lianas as structural parasites: A re-evaluation

Open Access
Review Ecology

DOI: 10.1007/s11434-011-4690-x

Cite this article as:
Tang, Y., Kitching, R.L. & Cao, M. Chin. Sci. Bull. (2012) 57: 307. doi:10.1007/s11434-011-4690-x


Lianas are a principal physiognomic component of tropical and subtropical forests and are typically considered to be parasites of trees. In contrast, the substantial contribution of lianas to rainforest leaf litter production (up to 40%) suggests that they play important roles in nutrient cycles and may benefit their host trees. Lianas contribute disproportionately to total forest litter production at least partially because lianas invest relatively little in support structures and proportionately much more to leaf production when compared with trees. In contrast to tree leaves, liana leaves are higher in nutrient concentrations, relatively short-lived, and decompose more rapidly. In addition, the special life form of lianas allows them to grow vertically and horizontally in the forest and relocate nutrients, mainly towards their host trees, through the production of leaf litter. Consequently, lianas may contribute substantially to the high rainforest productivity, and the roles they play in liana/tree associations and rainforest dynamics needs to be re-evaluated.


Liana compensatory effect nutrient dynamics leaf litter rainforest 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesMenglaChina
  2. 2.Griffith School of the EnvironmentGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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