Burnham Project

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACLIMBERS: Censusing Lianas in Mesic Biomes of the Eastern Regions
PI: Robyn J. Burnham, University of Michigan

Climbing plants are important components of almost all forested ecosystems on earth.  Although most famous in tropical forests, woody climbing plants (or lianas) are also substantial contributors to the biodiversity in temperate forests.  This project aims to establish a baseline census for climbing plants (woody and herbaceous) in older temperate forest communities from the Midwest to the East Coast of North America.  In addition, the project poses the following questions: 1) do climbers of temperate forests bear the same array of climbing mechanisms as in tropical forests? 2) do climbers show a steadily decreasing diversity with increasing latitude or do thresholds of diversity change correlate with biologically limiting temperature levels? 3) is the proportion of bird-dispersed fruits higher in temperate climbing species at higher latitudes?  4) what is the proportion of canopy and subcanopy species contributed by the climbing life form in temperate forests? 5) What proportion of climber species are currently contributed by non-native species? Ultimately we will be addressing the differences between regenerating forests and relatively undisturbed forest to determine the influence of human disturbance on climber communities.

meniOur methods include establishing a 50 x 100 m plot in each section of forest to be censused.  The plot is gridded into 10 x 10 m cell, and each liana over 0.5 cm in diameter mapped to rooting position, identified, canopy position noted, and primary tree species host noted.  Vines smaller than 0.5cm diameter are recorded for each 10 x 10m cell but not counted individually.  As needed, one tree is cored on each plot to determine the age of the trees occupying the site.

At the E.S. George Reserve we have established two plots, both in the West Woods area.  We will recensus on a 5-7 year cycle.  In addition, we have surveyed climbers in Evans Old Field, the Airstrip, and irregularly along roads throughout the Reserve.

Relevant LinkCLIMBERS Website

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