Lianas (woody vines) are important non-structural elements of all tropical forests. Current field observations across the Neotropics suggest that liana abundance is rising as a result of forest disturbance, increasing atmospheric CO2
, and more frequent extreme climate events. Lianas can cause mechanical stress on their host trees, thus increasing mortality, in addition to potentially reducing carbon storage capacity. Furthermore, previous studies have suggested that liana leaves have an overall higher temperature than tree leaves, which presents the question of whether these differences can be extended from the leaf to the canopy. In this context, the ability to detect these temperature differences from a remote sensing platform has so far not been put into test, despite the importance such knowledge can have in large-scale land surface modeling studies and liana extent monitoring. To partially fill this knowledge gap, we acquired thermal infrared data using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system over an intermediate tropical dry forest in Costa Rica, Central America. Classification results from a previous study in the same area were used to subset the thermal infrared images into liana-infested areas, non-liana infested areas, and forest gaps. The temperature differences between these three image components were then investigated using the Welch and Games–Howell post-hoc statistical tests. Our results suggest that liana-infested areas have, on average, a statistically significant higher temperature than non-liana infested areas. Shadowed forest gaps, used as reference, have a cooler temperature than forest canopies. Our findings on the temperature differences between liana-infested and non-liana infested areas support previous leaf-level observations and open the door to the use of new approaches for the classification and modeling of liana infestation in tropical ecosystems.
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