Lianas in silico, ecological insights from a model of structural parasitism

Tropical forests are a critical component of the Earth system, storing half of the global forest carbon stocks and accounting for a third of terrestrial photosynthesis. Lianas are structural parasites that can substantially reduce the carbon sequestration capacity of these forests. Simulations of this peculiar growth form have only recently started and a single vegetation model included lianas so far. In this work we present a new liana implementation within the individual based model Formind. Initial tests indicate high structural realism both horizontal and vertical. In particular, we benchmarked the model against empirical observations of size distribution, mean liana cluster size and vertical leaf distribution for the Paracou site in French Guiana. Our model predicted a reduction of above-ground biomass between 10% for mature stands to 45% for secondary plots upon inclusion of lianas in the simulations. The reduced biomass was the result of a lower productivity due to a combination of lower tree photosynthesis and high liana respiration. We evaluated structural metrics (LAI, basal area, mean tree-height) and carbon fluxes (GPP, respiration) by comparing simulations with and without lianas. At the equilibrium, liana productivity was 1.9tC ha−1 y−1, or 23% of the total GPP and the forest carbon stocks were between 5% and 11% lower in simulations with lianas. We also highlight the main strengths and limitations of this new approach and propose new field measurements to further the understanding of liana ecology in a modelling framework.


Lianas in silico, ecological insights from a model of structural parasitism
Publication Type
Journal Article
Year of Publication
Ecological Modelling
Date Published
FORET Paracou
Submitted on 21 October 2021