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Modelling lianas as key drivers of tropical forest responses to climate change (TREECLIMBERS)

Tropical forests are essential components of the earth system. Yet, much uncertainty exists about the exact

role of this biome in the global carbon cycle. Our limited understanding of tropical forest functioning is

reflected in uncertain global vegetation model projections. A large source of uncertainty in these models is

their representation of ecosystem demographic processes. Interestingly, fieldwork has revealed lianas as

important components of tropical forests, which are apparently increasing in abundance. Liana proliferation

might be a key adaptation mechanism of tropical forests to climate change, which has potentially large

impacts on the long term tropical forest biome carbon balance. Nevertheless, no single terrestrial ecosystem

model currently includes lianas. TREECLIMBERS will generate important insights into the mechanisms by

which lianas influence the carbon balance of tropical forests, by building the first vegetation model that

includes lianas. We will make the first integrative study of (1) the contribution of lianas to instantaneous

carbon and water fluxes, (2) liana contribution and influence on canopy structure, (3) their role for long term

demographic processes, and (4) of their role in forest responses to drought events. TREECLIMBERS will

develop the first liana plant functional type (PFT) by combining a unique global meta-analysis of existing

data with innovative terrestrial LiDAR 3D measurements of the canopy to study the contribution of lianas to

the canopy structure. New and available data will be integrated in the Ecosystem Demography (ED) model, a

forerunner of the next generation of vegetation models. By using model-data fusion we will, for the first

time, integrate the large amount of available and emerging liana data, leading to an integrated insight into the

role of lianas in tropical forest functioning. This project aims to show that shifts in floristic composition due

to global change may have important impacts in tropical forests.

Date:1 Apr 2015 →  31 Mar 2020
Keywords:climate change
Disciplines:Forestry management and modelling, Terrestrial ecology, Climate change, Natural resource management, Global ecology