Journal of Tropical Ecology

Epiphyte diversity and biomass in the canopy of lowland and montane forests in Ecuador

Martin  Freiberg a1c1 and Elke  Freiberg a1
a1 Abteilung Systematische Botanik und Ökologie, Universität Ulm, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, D-89069 Ulm, Germany


Epiphyte diversity as well as distribution and composition of epiphytic biomass was investigated in two lowland and two montane rain forests in Ecuador. Species numbers of epiphytes per tree were slightly higher in the montane (22–41 in Los Cedros, 33–54 in Otonga) than in the lowland forests (9–43 in Yasuni, 19–32 in Tiputini), however differences were not significant. In contrast, some epiphyte families did show significant altitudinal differences. The total epiphytic biomass per branch surface decreased from the centre of the crown to the periphery, and was generally higher in the montane (6.0 kg m−2 on central branches in Los Cedros, 1.8 kg m−2 in Otonga) than in the lowland forests (1.3 kg m−2 in Yasuni and 1.8 kg m−2 in Tiputini). Especially, dry weight of bryophytes and dead organic matter was higher in the mountains. In contrast, the biomass of green parts of vascular epiphytes on central branches was about the same in all four forests (0.4–0.6 kg m−2). A comparison with literature data from other study sites of tropical moist forests supports the observation that biomass of vascular epiphytes does not significantly change with altitude. It is discussed, that the high bryophytic biomass in montane compared to lowland forests is a major reason for differences in humus biomass between these forest types.

(Accepted March 17 2000)

Key Words: biodiversity; biomass; canopy; Ecuador; epiphytes; epiphyte humus; tropical rain forest.

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