Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

The contribution of epiphytes to the abundance and species richness of canopy insects in a Mexican coffee plantation

Andrea Cruz-Angóna1 p1, Martha L. Baenaa1 and Russell Greenberga2 c1

a1 Instituto de Ecología, A.C. Departamento de Ecología Funcional. Km 2.5 antigua carretera a Coatepec, No. 315. 91070, Xalapa, Veracruz, México

a2 Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008, USA


The abundance of epiphytes has been assumed to be important in explaining the high diversity of tropical canopy arthropods. In this study we assessed the possible role that the presence of epiphytes may have on the diversity and abundance of canopy insects in an experimental study conducted in a coffee plantation in Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico. Epiphytes were removed from trees in one of two plots in two sites of the coffee plantation. In each plot we collected insects from three Inga jinicuil trees by knockdown insecticide fogging. Insects were sorted to morphospecies, counted and measured. Trees with epiphytes had significantly higher numbers of species and individuals and insects larger than 5 mm were also more species-rich and abundant in trees with epiphytes. The magnitude of the enhancement was surprisingly large with the epiphyte plot samples having on average 90% more individuals and 22% more species than plots without epiphytes. These differences were even greater for large (>5 mm) insects (184% and 113% respectively). Our results support the tenet that epiphytes provide valuable resources to arthropods, which we have illustrated for canopy insects in shade trees of coffee plantations.

(Accepted June 11 2009)


c1 Corresponding author. Email:

p1 Present address: CONABIO, Liga Periférico-Insurgentes Sur 4903, Tlalpan, México 14010.