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What triggers liana growth spurts?

October 13, 2014

What triggers liana growth spurts?

Eric Manzané’s interest in biology began when his father showed him a 700-plus-page textbook first published in 1973

Eric Manzané’s interest in biology began when his father showed him a 700-plus-page textbook first published in 1973. He was eight years old, and had just moved to the Panama City suburb of San Miguelito from Santa Fe de Veraguas, which didn’t have paved roads or electricity at the time.

Manzané completed undergraduate studies at the University of Panama and, in 1999, worked a stint with STRI bat researchers on Barro Colorado Island. He then joined the tree and seedling censuses on BCI’s 50-hectare plot for five years.

“Barro Colorado is practically a training camp for many Panamanians,” said Manzané, who met his Ph.D. adviser, Guillermo Goldstein, at the University of Miami through STRI research associate Liza Comita, of Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, who oversees the seedling censuses.

Manzané’s doctoral thesis tackled lianas, woody vines that are increasing in abundance in Neotropical forests. He examined the ecophysiology of two liana types — freestanding lianas that may live for many years before climbing a tree into the canopy, and those whose survival depends on quickly scaling a tree. He found that freestanding vines tend to predominate in the denser, darker and wetter forests of northern Panama.

Manzané’s future research will examine factors that trigger freestanding lianas to grow into the canopy — light, soil, size or moisture. Presently, he works on a drought tolerance experiment, which could provide valuable information for forest managers in the context of climate change.

“I like to do science that can be applied to real problems in Panama and the world in general,” he said.

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