, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 305-316

Correlation between water relations and within-canopy distribution of epiphytic ferns in a Mexican cloud forest

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The physiological traits associated with water relations of eight common epiphytic ferns in a Mexican cloud forest were investigated in relation to the distribution of these species within the canopy. Fern distribution was significantly correlated with the relative water content at which stomata close, leaf thickness, stomatal density and size. Trichomanes bucinatum desiccated completely within hours in moderately dry air and was confined to the stem bases, and Asplenium cuspidatum, with no evident adaptations to cope with drought, grew in the second most shaded zone within the tree crowns. Despite growing in a humid cloud forest, all other species had xeric adaptations including coriaceous leaves (Pleopeltis mexicana, Elaphoglossum glaucum), succulent rhizomes (Polypodium puberulum, Phlebodium areolatum), low rates of uncontrolled water loss (all species except P. puberulum), leaf scales (Elaphoglossum petiolatum, Polypodium plebeium), and high cell wall elasticity (all species). P. plebeium and Pl. mexicanum, which grow in the most exposed locations, tolerated water loss beyond the turgor loss point before the stomata closed and appear to be poikilohydric or at least to tolerate high water deficits.

Received: 8 June 1997 / Accepted: 30 November 1997