Lianas - Key to tropical forest ecosystems

07 May 2021 (4149 visits)

Lianas are long, woody vines that are rooted in the ground and use trees as vertical support as they grow. They can be found in a range of ecosystems across the planet, but are most abundant and diverse in tropical forests.


Lianas are important structural components of tropical forests and also play a key role within the ecosystem. In tropical forests, between 10 and 45% of woody stem growth occurs in the form of lianas.


On the one hand, in addition to being an important element in the forest regeneration process, they serve as “highways” for the circulation of animals among the treetops, and their fruits serve as food for many species.


On the other hand, lianas compete intensively with trees. They function as structural parasites on major tree species, limiting their growth, altering their vital functions, and increasing their mortality. Where they grow in particularly high densities, they can monopolize the nutrients in soils and slow the regeneration of the forest (Makowski, 2009). As the great English naturalist Charles Darwin observed, this means that an overabundance of woody vines can have negative consequences, not only on tree communities, but also on the overall ecosystem and the general health of the forest.


Some scientists believe that deforestation and climate change are affecting the delicate balance of the forest ecosystems in which the many species of liana play a vital role. In areas where forests have been disturbed by human activity –so-called “secondary forest”- lianas have been found to be more abundant than in undisturbed, so-called virgin forests, like those we help to protect in the Tambopata region of southern Peru, where we operate our ecotourism vacation programs.  


Such seemingly subtle variations in the composition of tropical forest ecosystems can have profound repercussions on life in the forest, affecting both flora and fauna. Where lianas thrive in disturbed forest, once they reach the canopy their dense leaf cover spreads sideways, competing successfully with tree species for available sunlight, and multiplying the initial effects of human activity. In the battle for sunlight in tropical forests, it is those trees which remain free of lianas that gain an advantage.


Lianas are particularly important to the life of the forest thanks to the services they provide to several species of tropical fauna. Many animals that use lianas to travel through the forest would otherwise have to move around on the ground, where they would fall prey easily to predators. Many of these same animals also feed on the fruits or flowers of certain species of liana. The animals that depend on lianas range from ants to lizards, rodents, sloths and monkeys.


In South America, including Peru, humans have also traditionally benefited from some liana species. Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi), a psychoactive plant used for centuries in spiritual medicine ceremonies and now popular with many travelers from the west, is a species of liana. So, too, is uña de gato (Uncaria tomentosa), better known in English as “cat’s claw”. The root bark from uña de gato is used in herbal medicine, and in our modern world it is also marketed as a dietary supplement.



Click on image to enlarge:


Weather -

Check out the itineraries we offer:

rainforest EXPERIENCE

3 days (USD 494.00)

rainforest EXPLORER

4 days (USD 677.00)

rainforest ENCOUNTER

4 days (USD 761.00)

rainforest ADVENTURE

4 days (USD 932.00)

rainforest JOURNEY

4 days (USD 1148.00)

rainforest EXPEDITION

5 days (USD 1370.00)

What your rainforest visit means

In Peru ecotourism has helped make it possible to create national reserves and save the forests of the Amazon basin from destruction. By implementing our ecotourism-based conservation model (see our video), we are ensuring the forests will be around for future generations to appreciate. Pioneering projects like Tambopata Ecolodge, which was established in 1991, serve as a conservation model, by showing how responsible ecotourism can support conservation initiatives.
Follow us
neuro(drive).pro() /
Enjoy an upgrade to SUITE for the cost of a SUPERIOR room. This offer is subject to availability. To take advantage of this offer, click here and fill out the form, indicating your selected dates, and requesting this promotional offer.
Enjoy 25% off any room type, available for the Rainforest Experience or Rainforest Encounter programs. To take advantage of this offer, click on the program you’re interested in, enter your dates, and select the room type available, number of people, and the other options. The discount will be applied to the rates automatically.