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Host preferences of low-trunk vascular epiphytes in a cloud forest of Veracruz, Mexico

  • Klaus Mehltreter (a1), Alejandro Flores-Palacios (a2) and José G. García-Franco (a1)

Abstract

The diversity, abundance and frequency of vascular epiphytes on the lower trunk were compared between two host groups of a Mexican cloud forest: angiosperm trees (n = 72) and tree ferns (n = 28). The bark of the five most frequent host trees and the root mantle of the two tree ferns were analysed for their thickness, water content, water retention capacity and pH. A total of 55 epiphyte species and 910 individuals were found on the 27 host species. On hosts with a dbh range of 5–10 cm, epiphytes were significantly more diverse (4.3±0.9 species per host) and more abundant (12.5±2.2 individuals per host) on tree ferns than on angiosperm trees (1.9±0.2 species per host and 3.9±0.6 individuals per host). However, these differences were not significant for the dbh class of 10–20 cm, because epiphyte numbers increased on angiosperm trees with larger host size, but not in tree ferns. Most epiphyte species had no preference for any host group, but four species were significantly more frequent on tree ferns and two species on angiosperm trees. The higher epiphyte diversity and abundance on tree fern trunks of the smallest dbh class is attributed to their presumably greater age and to two stem characteristics, which differed significantly between host groups, the thicker root mantle and higher water retention capacity of tree ferns. These bark characteristics may favour germination and establishment of epiphytes.

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Corresponding author. Email: klaus@ecologia.edu.mx

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