Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry 605 014, INDIA.
Lianas, the woody climbers are an important but relatively understudied life-form as compared to trees. Lianas begin life on the ground as small, selfsupporting shrubs and rely on other plants to reach the light-rich environment of the forest canopy (Darwin, 1867; Putz, 1984a; Letcher and Chazdon, 2009). They form an important structural component of most tropical forests, typically they rely on trees and comprise about 25% of species diversity (Gentry and Dodson, 1987; Schnitzer and Bongers, 2002), between 10–45% of woody stem density (Gentry, 1991a; Appanah et al., 1993; Nabe-Nielsen, 2001; Perez-Salicrup et al., 2001; Schnitzer and Bongers, 2002; Schnitzer et al., 2005; Senbeta et al., 2005; Addo-Fordjour et al., 2009a), and contribute up to 40% of forest leaf area and leaf productivity (Hegarty and Caballe, 1991).
Lianas play a crucial role in of forest functioning and dynamics, such as providing a valuable food resource for animals, linking trees together by providing canopy to canopy access for arboreal animals, tree regeneration and increasing tree mortality rates (Putz and Mooney, 1991; Schnitzer and Bongers, 2002). Additionally, lianas are widely used by rural people (Bongers et al., 2002, 2005; Liu et al., 2004). Generally lianas produce appealing-coloured flowers, and produce profuse fruit crops which attract wide range of animal community, as well as its uses in human community for various purposes in day today life, such as food, fiber, medicine, construction etc.
To date, a limited number of investigations have focused on landscape-scale variation in liana community attributes (Ibarra-Manriquez and Martinez-Ramos, 2002; DeWalt et al., 2006; Macia et al., 2007). Despite the fact that the vast southern Eastern Ghats region of India is subjected to forest disturbance and land-use change for various purposes, to date, there is no large-scale inventory of liana diversity in these already fragmented forests. Hence, the present study was undertaken, which aims at a large-scale, landscape-level investigation of liana diversity (≥1.5 cm dbh) to determine species composition, abundance, liana species traits including climbing mechanism, leaf and flower types, dispersal modes and their resource assessment in six hill complexes of southern Eastern Ghats, to generate a valuable database for biodiversity conservation of this region.