Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Leaf litter production by lianes and trees in a sub-tropical Australian rain forest

Elwyn E. Hegartya1

a1 Department of Botany, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, Australia 4067

Abstract

Leaf litter production by lianes (=lianas) and trees was compared in an evergreen rain forest in subtropical Australia. Several successional stages were represented at the main site. Lianes contributed 2.2% of total basal area (69.6 m2 ha-1) of this site, but 24% of leaf litterfall (5.9–6.5 tha-1 y-2 over two years. Minor year-to-year variation in litterfall was attributed to incidence of severe storms, and drought. Lianes were responsible for about 17% of leaf litterfall in spring, 21% in the summerpeak, and 40% in autumn, more lianes than trees being deciduous. Leaf litter production by 23 individual species of liane, in relation to their basal area within the main site, was, on average, 15 times as great as that by 34 tree species, but declined more steeply between the species-groups of early and later succession. Tendrillar lianes, unlike twiners and scramblers, were confined to the ‘early’ successional group, and their foliage was spread across canopy surfaces, maximizing light interception. It was concluded that this contributed to greater production of leaf litter, per unit basal area, by tendrillar than by other climbers, and to the successional decline in leaf litterfall from lianes.

(Accepted November 06 1990)