Ecological Research

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 323–332 | Cite as

Variation in liana abundance and biomass along an elevational gradient in the tropical Atlantic Forest (Brazil)

  • Luciana F. AlvesEmail author
  • Marco A. Assis
  • Juliano van Melis
  • Ana L. S. Barros
  • Simone A. Vieira
  • Fernando R. Martins
  • Luiz A. Martinelli
  • Carlos A. Joly
Original Article


Lianas play a key role in forest structure, species diversity, as well as functional aspects of tropical forests. Although the study of lianas in the tropics has increased dramatically in recent years, basic information on liana communities for the Brazilian Atlantic Forest is still scarce. To understand general patterns of liana abundance and biomass along an elevational gradient (0–1,100 m asl) of coastal Atlantic Forest, we carried out a standard census for lianas ≥1 cm in five 1-ha plots distributed across different forest sites. On average, we found a twofold variation in liana abundance and biomass between lowland and other forest types. Large lianas (≥10 cm) accounted for 26–35% of total liana biomass at lower elevations, but they were not recorded in montane forests. Although the abundance of lianas displayed strong spatial structure at short distances, the present local forest structure played a minor role structuring liana communities at the scale of 0.01 ha. Compared to similar moist and wet Neotropical forests, lianas are slightly less abundant in the Atlantic Forest, but the total biomass is similar. Our study highlights two important points: (1) despite some studies have shown the importance of small-scale canopy disturbance and support availability, the spatial scale of the relationships between lianas and forest structure can vary greatly among tropical forests; (2) our results add to the evidence that past canopy disturbance levels and minimum temperature variation exert influence on the structure of liana communities in tropical moist forests, particularly along short and steep elevational gradients.


Aboveground biomass Climbers Elevation Forest structure Tropical moist forest 



Aboveground biomass



We gratefully acknowledge the field assistance of V.F. Silva, V.A. Kamimura, W.T. Kakuno, O.A. Santos, S. Santos, A.L.C. Rochelle, B.A. Aranha, and E. A. Manzi. We are indebted with Instituto Florestal de São Paulo and Fazenda Capricornio staff for their logistic support during the fieldwork. This research was supported by the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) as part of the Thematic Project Functional Gradient (FAPESP 03/12595-7 to C.A. Joly and L.A. Martinelli), within the BIOTA/FAPESP Program 74—The Biodiversity Virtual Institute (, by the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq 476131/2006-5 to M.A. Assis), and by CAPES (scholarship to J. van Melis). COTEC/IF 41.065/2005 and IBAMA/CGEN 093/2005 permit.

Supplementary material

11284_2011_902_MOESM1_ESM.doc (78 kb)
Supplementary material (DOC 78 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luciana F. Alves
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Marco A. Assis
    • 4
  • Juliano van Melis
    • 5
  • Ana L. S. Barros
    • 4
  • Simone A. Vieira
    • 6
  • Fernando R. Martins
    • 5
  • Luiz A. Martinelli
    • 7
  • Carlos A. Joly
    • 5
  1. 1.INSTAARUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de BotânicaSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Depto. de BotânicaUniversidade Estadual PaulistaRio ClaroBrazil
  5. 5.Depto de Biologia VegetalUniversidade Estadual de CampinasCampinasBrazil
  6. 6.NEPAMUniversidade Estadual de CampinasCampinasBrazil
  7. 7.CENA/EsalqUniversidade de São PauloPiracicabaBrazil

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