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Post-stripping recolonization of vascular epiphytes in cloud-forest fragments in Mexico

  • Margoth Acuña-Tarazona (a1), Tarin Toledo-Aceves (a1), Alejandro Flores-Palacios (a2), Vinicio J. Sosa (a1) and M. Luisa Martínez (a1)...


The response of vascular epiphyte communities following natural or human disturbance has been little studied. Over 5 y, we evaluated the post-stripping recolonization of vascular epiphytes in cloud forest. Vascular epiphytes were experimentally removed from branch and trunk plots (1 m in length) on five trees in two secondary cloud forest fragments in southern Mexico. Similarity between colonizer and established communities was compared in each fragment using a further five trees with no stripping. All seedlings were recorded yearly. Non-vascular epiphyte cover was estimated in each plot. The recolonization rate was very high; after 5 y, epiphyte density of the colonizer community (27.4 ± 6.8 individuals per segment) reached similar values to those of the established community (26.7 ± 3.3) in nearby trees. While similarity (composition and abundance) between the colonizer community and established community was high (81%), diversity accumulation curves indicated that the colonizer community presents a lower diversity of epiphytes (5.5 equivalent species) than the established community (11.4). Colonization of xerophytic bromeliads was high, while pteridophytes and orchids presented reduced recovery. The immediately surrounding source of propagules had a strong influence on recolonization. In both the colonizer and established communities, dominance rank was bromeliads > peperomias > pteridophytes. The results show that the recovery capacity of epiphytic vegetation in secondary forest is high, if propagule sources are close by. However, at 5 y after disturbance, it is unclear whether the colonizer community would present the same species composition as the established community or if it would give rise to a different community.


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