Rampaging vines are slowly strangling tropical forests

a photo of the base of a huge tree wrapped in multiple thick woody vines climbing up it and out of the image frame

Evan Gora nonetheless remembers the primary time he climbed a tree that had been struck by lightning. The trunk of this strangler fig was as broad as a automobile. Its leaves had been waxy and boat-shaped. At first look, the tree didn’t appear like it had been toasted by 300 million volts of electrical energy.

However as Gora hefted his method up, he noticed faint indicators that it had been zapped 10 days earlier than. Leaves on the ideas of some branches had been scorched and lifeless. Lightning had jumped from these branches to neighboring bushes, Gora realized.

He additionally noticed that the lightning had traveled from tree to tree throughout ropy growths referred to as lianas. They’re thick, woody vines. A single liana typically extends throughout a number of bushes, wiring them collectively. And if lightning strikes one, it may well now be dangerous information for the others.

“Lianas are carrying [electric] present, like jumper cables, throughout the cover,” says Gora. He’s a forest ecologist on the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Research in Millbrook, N.Y. By connecting these bushes, the vines “may amplify the consequences of lightning.”

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