Importance of Climbers

Climbing plants can differ considerably from self-supporting plants in terms of growth strategy and stem mechanics. Self-supporting plants can be understood to make up the overall primary mechanical structure of many terrestrial ecosystems, whereas climbers fill vacant space on and around their self-supporting hosts. Despite a number of commentators noting that the ecology of lianas is more poorly known compared with other plant growth forms such as trees, recent studies over the last decade, including biomechanical studies, have unequivocally demonstrated that lianas are extremely important constituents of many tropical ecosystems [1,2]. Furthermore, recent reports based on long-term censuses, particularly from the neotro-pics, have demonstrated that liana abundance is apparently increasing relative to tree species, possibly as a result of anthropogenic disturbance and/or climatic change [3,4]. Because climbing plants represent important elements as well as potential indicators of regional and possibly global vegetation change, there is much need for developing techniques and approaches to better understand their growth, development, and ecological significance, especially under natural conditions.

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