Differences in epiphyte biomass and community composition along landscape and within-crown spatial scales

Autumn A. Amici, Nalini M. Nadkarni, Cameron B. Williams, Sybil G. Gotsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Vascular epiphytes contribute to the structural, compositional, and functional complexity of tropical montane cloud forests because of their high biomass, diversity, and ability to intercept and retain water and nutrients from atmospheric sources. However, human-caused climate change and forest-to-pasture conversion are rapidly altering tropical montane cloud forests. Epiphyte communities may be particularly vulnerable to these changes because of their dependence on direct atmospheric inputs and host trees for survival. In Monteverde, Costa Rica, we measured vascular epiphyte biomass, community composition, and richness at two spatial scales: (1) along an elevation gradient spanning premontane forests to montane cloud forests and (2) within trees along branches from inner to outer crown positions. We also compared epiphyte biomass and distribution at these scales between two different land-cover types, comparing trees in closed canopy forest to isolated trees in pastures. An ordination of epiphyte communities at the level of trees grouped forested sites above versus below the cloud base, and separated forest versus pasture trees. Species richness increased with increasing elevation and decreased from inner to outer branch positions. Although richness did not differ between land-cover types, there were significant differences in community composition. The variability in epiphyte community organization between the two spatial scales and between land-cover types underscores the potential complexity of epiphyte responses to climate and land-cover changes. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-58
Number of pages13
JournalBiotropica
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

Keywords

  • Costa Rica
  • Monteverde
  • crown position
  • elevation gradient
  • land cover
  • tropical montane cloud forest
  • vascular epiphytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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