Plant and Soil

, Volume 430, Issue 1–2, pp 1–6 | Cite as

Revisiting the hypothesis for increasing liana abundance in seasonal forests: a theoretical review

  • Thiago de Azevedo Amorim
  • André Felippe Nunes-Freitas
  • Bruno H. P. RosadoEmail author
Review Article



A decade ago, to address the question, “Why are lianas most abundant in seasonal tropical forests across the globe?”, the Mechanistic Explanation of Liana Global Abundance (MELGA) relied on the assumption that lianas have deeper roots than trees and are able to tap water from relatively deeper soil layers, giving them a competitive advantage during drought.


We assess whether the assumption that lianas have deep roots is corroborated by the literature. We accessed the initial MELGA paper and evaluated all papers citing it. To date, we found that two papers tested the MELGA, and only one corroborated it.


Deeper roots in lianas are not the single mechanism explaining liana success, due to limited empirical support. Instead, we propose that while liana success in seasonal forests may relate to deep roots for some species, it should not be viewed as the exclusive result of a single trait but as the possible result of multiple traits such as hydraulic redistribution, multifocal growing, drought resilience, higher water storage capacity, and acquisitive resource syndrome. Additional hypotheses should be evaluated along with predicted changes in plant community structure. These hypotheses should stimulate research on the mechanisms driving liana success in tropical forests.


Drought Hydraulic redistribution Maximum-root-depth Multifocal-growth Tropical forest Woody-vine 



We thank an anonymous reviewer and R. J. Burnham for great comments and suggestions. TAA was supported by CAPES (88881.135051/2016-01) and BHPR by grants from FAPERJ (E-26/110.985/2013 and E-26/111.208/2014) and the Prociencia Scholarship.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3730_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (47 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 47.2 kb)


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas e da SaúdeUniversidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecologia, IBRAGUniversidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Ciências Ambientais, Instituto de FlorestasUniversidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil

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