Do vine species in neotropical forests see the forest or the trees?

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Questions: Is the occurrence of vine species in neotropical rain forests primarily determined by properties of the forest (environmental factors), by properties of the trees (tree species or tree size) or are vines randomly distributed?

Location: Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala.

Methods: In five 1-ha plots that span variation from unlogged forest to forest impacted by recurrent human disturbance we recorded the presence of all climbing vine species on every tree. The presence of all free standing vine species and 11 environmental variables were recorded in 100-m2 subplots. The relationship of host tree diameter and host tree identity on single tree vine species richness was investigated by GLM modelling. Partial redundancy analyses were used to partition the variation in vine species composition on two sources: environmental factors and tree species identity.

Results: Single tree vine richness increased with increasing host tree DBH and differed significantly among host species. For climbing vines, the ratio of variation in subplot presence explained by tree species and by environmental variables was ca. 4:1 (in the most disturbed logged plots slightly lower), for free standing vines this ratio varied from 1:2 in the most disturbed logged plots to 9:1 in reserve plots, while a ratio of ca. 1:1 was found for all plots analysed together.

Conclusion: Different tree species have different probabilities of being infested by vines. Vines see both the forest and the trees; the environment is more important in earlier developmental stages, properties of individual trees become more important from the time vines start to climb.
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