Lianas are strangling trees, and are multiplying at a concerning rate.
An alarming new report indicates there’s a new obstacle in the battle to save the planet from global warming: jungle vines.
A major experimental study by Smithsonian researchers in Panama has found that jungle vines, also called lianas, are slowing down the growth of trees and sometimes causing them to die prematurely, limiting the amount of carbon dioxide these tropical forests can absorb that could help slow down climate change, according to a Phys.org report.
Tropical forests make a huge difference when it comes to keeping the Earth from overheating by sucking up a third of the total carbon swallowed up through photosynthesis.
Lianas are growing in abundance today, meaning this hasn’t always been a problem for the Earth, and in fact the fact they are thriving may be due to climate change due to more severe seasonal droughts or environmental disruptions.
Lianas could be accelerating climate change by creating a positive feedback loop, choking out the trees that stand in the way of climate change, thus increase the rate of climate change which increases the amount of lianas, according to the report.
It’s a groundbreaking finding that could have big ripple effects in the fight against global warming. While lianas are actually a very small part of the tropical biomass, but they have a massive effect on trees that could alter how carbon is stored.
While lianas don’t contribute much biomass because of their small size, they are very common, and make up about 25 percent of species. They depend on the trees for life, climbing up them to reach the sunlight.
Scientists have known before the lianas can affect forest biomass growth, but the previous studies were focused on how it stunted tree growth.
For the study, scientists cut the lianas in eight experimental plots, and left them intact in eight others, and measured the results over the next three years to see how the trees grew.
In the uncut plots, the lianas slashed biomass accumulation by a whopping 76 percent, both because of less tree growth and more tree deaths.