We studied three different size classes of liana abundance representing proxies for three different life stages and aimed to identify the sequence of ecological filters that have led to current patterns of liana abundance. We tested the relationship between vegetation structure (including antagonistic support types) and soil texture on liana abundance, using 40 plots (1 and 0.25 ha) set at least 1km apart, and distributed over 64km2 in a Central Amazonian terra firme forest. Three support types were considered: palms, thin trees and an index of vegetation structure. Liana size classes responded hierarchically to ecological filters: larger size classes were progressively less associated with the environmental variables, while different aspects of vegetation structure were related to individual size classes. This hierarchical pattern suggests that selection mechanisms change throughout liana life cycles. Our results show that vegetation structure is an important predictor of liana abundance at a mesoscale and highlights the importance of considering the spatial structure in studies of tropical liana communities.
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