, Volume 212, Issue 3, pp 433-449
Date: 03 Sep 2010

Exploring the effect of host tree identity on epiphyte bryophyte communities in different Canarian subtropical cloud forests

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Abstract

This study explores the host tree preferences of epiphyte bryophyte communities in two key types of evergreen cloud forests on La Gomera (Canary Islands, Spain): ericaceous versus broadleaved laurel forest. By comparing two pairs of tree species (Erica arborea and Myrica faya vs. Ilex canariensis and Laurus novocanariensis) that occur in both forest types, we quantitatively examined whether epiphyte-host relationships change with the type of forest. In 51 ancient forest stands, the low-trunk bryophyte composition on the two host tree groups was analysed with both non-parametric procedures and ordination analyses. Our results highlight that the influence of local environmental conditions on the structuring of epiphyte communities may be different depending on the host tree identity. Whilst the epiphyte composition of the host tree group formed by I. canariensis and L. novocanariensis differed significantly between forest types depending on solar exposure, we failed to find variations for the other host tree group, excepting in those localities wherein mist precipitation was extremely high. Our findings highlight the importance of the natural diversity of tree species along environmental gradients, as well as of water availability at different spatial scales for epiphytic bryophytes in montane cloud forests.