Are vines taking over the world?

Most types of vines like forest disturbances, so it's not very surprising to see vines proliferating in logged, fragmented and regenerating forests.  And in warmer parts of the world, many introduced vine species are proliferating; the aggressive kudzu vine, for instance, has rapidly colonized much of the southeastern US.

But it's less apparent why vines should be increasing in intact, undisturbed forests.  That is precisely what researchers are now finding, across a number of sites in the tropics.  In a recently accepted paper in Ecology, for instance, my colleagues and I found that woody vines (lianas) have increased by about 1% per year over the last 14 years in old-growth rainforests in central Amazonia.

Why are vines on the rise?  In our paper we consider some of the leading hypotheses for this puzzling environmental mystery.

-Bill Laurance

Woody vines (lianas) and trees are ancient enemies.

Woody vines (lianas) and trees are ancient enemies.