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Epiphyte Biomass and Nutrient Capital of a Neotropical Elfin Forest

Nalini M. Nadkarni
Biotropica
Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec., 1984), pp. 249-256
DOI: 10.2307/2387932
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2387932
Page Count: 8
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Epiphyte Biomass and Nutrient Capital of a Neotropical Elfin Forest
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Abstract

The epiphyte communities of a Costa Rican cloud forest make up a conspicuous portion of the canopy, especially on large canopy dominants. Non-destructive sampling methods were used to assess the composition, biomass, and nutrient concentration of live and dead epiphytes on representative host trees to determine the mineral capital contained in the epiphyte components of the standing vegetation. Epiphyte standing crop on a single large Clusia alata (Guttiferae) tree is 141.9 kg. The nutrient capital (in g) is: N = 3062; P = 97; K = 678; Ca = 460; Mg = 126; Na = 207. Using information on forest structure and epiphyte distribution, stand-level estimates of epiphyte mat nutrient capital were made. Although epiphyte biomass constitutes less than 2 percent of total elfin forest ecosystem dry weight, the nutrients they contain are equivalent to up to 45 percent of nutrients contained in ecosystem foliage of similar ecosystems. Assessment of epiphyte nutrient capital gives a more complete and accurate idea of the aboveground vegetation pools, and supports the idea that epiphytes may play a greater role in ecosystem nutrient dynamics than has been previously considered.

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