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Microhabitats and Water Relations of Epiphytic Cacti and Ferns in a Lowland Neotropical Forest

Jose Luis Andrade and Park S. Nobel
Biotropica
Vol. 29, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 261-270
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2389141
Page Count: 10
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Microhabitats and Water Relations of Epiphytic Cacti and Ferns in a Lowland Neotropical Forest
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Abstract

The pattern of canopy distribution and some water relations characteristics of the epiphytic cacti Epiphyllum phyllanthus and Rhipsalis baccifera and the epiphytic ferns Polypodium crassifolium and Polypodium phyllitidis were examined in the tropical forest of Barro Colorado Island, Panama. The epiphytic cacti were 6-fold more succulent than the epiphytic ferns, which had a 9-fold higher root shoot ratio. The four species, especially the cacti, were more abundant on the deciduous trees Ceiba pentandra, Platypodium elegans, and Tabebuia guayacan than on the evergreen Anacardium excelsum. The water-holding capacity of the bark was 2-fold higher for A. excelsum and T. guayacan than for C. pentandra and P. elegans; the main crotches of the latter species intercepted 2-fold more rainfall than those of the former. Well-watered plants of all epiphytic species showed similar total daily transpiration. After 2 weeks of drought, daily transpiration decreased an average of 48 percent for the cacti and 73 percent for the ferns. After 4 weeks of drought, daily transpiration decreased 80 percent for the cacti and was eliminated for the ferns; succulence then decreased an average of 29 percent for the cacti and 98 percent for the ferns, but all species recovered fully within 2 d after rewetting. The epiphytic ferns had a low relative capacitance (0.16 M/Pa), causing these presumably C3 plants often to be under water stress. A high relative capacitance (0.50 M/Pa) and crassulacean acid metabolism allowed the epiphytic cacti to occur most frequently on the driest sites of this tropical forest.

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