Publication Date

2011-05-06

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2012-05-05

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Biology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2011-04-15

First Committee Member

Leonel da S.L. Sternberg

Second Committee Member

David P. Janos

Third Committee Member

Donald L. DeAngelis

Fourth Committee Member

Jack B. Fisher

Abstract

I studied the community of lianas in the Yasuní Forest Dynamics Plot (YFDP), in Amazonian Ecuador. I found that species diversity of lianas in valley habitat was higher than in ridge habitat, but liana abundance was similar. I also found that community structure (species composition and their abundances) of lianas in ridge was distinct from that in valley because of the differential distribution and abundance of certain species along the topographic gradient. In an attempt to explain this phenomenon deterministically, I took two approaches: (1) to explore if trait expression of leaf-based traits, wood specific gravity and stem growth rate was different among species with ridge habitat association, species with valley habitat association, and generalist species; and (2) to explore if frequencies of different whole-plant growth strategies in the forest understory—defined by whether a liana was free-standing or already climbing, by its climbing mechanism, and by its understory appearance—were different between ridge and valley. My underlying rationale was that if certain trait expression or understory growth strategy can be associated to a given species, or group of species, and such species also drive the community structure difference between ridge and valley, then ecological insight on the biological deterministic mechanisms driving the difference can be gained. I end this one-page dissertation abstract right here and purposely leave you, the reader, perplexed—I invite you to seek answers to the liana distribution conundrum in the YFDP by perusing this dissertation.

Keywords

lianas; Yasuní; distribution; diversity; functional traits; growth strategies

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