Plant Ecology

, Volume 176, Issue 2, pp 173–183

Vascular epiphytes in the temperate zones–a review



Vascular epiphytes are typically associated with tropical rainforests, whereas their occurrence in temperate forests is little appreciated. This review summarises the available information on epiphytism in the temperate zones (> 23.5 latitude), which has not been reviewed omprehensively for more than a century, and critically analyses the proposed mechanisms behind the observed biogeographical patterns. Although in the temperate zone epiphytic vascular plants are rarely as impressive as in tropical forests, there are noteworthy exceptions. Temperate rain forests of Chile and New Zealand, or montane forests in the Himalayas are comparable to many tropical forests in terms of epiphyte biomass and diversity, but differ in their taxonomic spectrum temperate epiphyte communities are generally dominated by ferns and fern-allies. Other temperate areas are not, however, necessarily barren of epiphytes, as repeatedly implied. Quite in contrast, local populations of epiphytes in a large number of other non-tropical areas in both the southern and the northern hemisphere can be quite conspicuous. The proposed reasons for the latitudinal gradients in epiphyte abundance and diversity (water scarcity or low tempera-tures). are not fully convincing and, moreover, still await experimental verification. Other factors, both historical (e.g., Pleistocene extinctions) and ecological (e.g., prevalence of conifers in the northern hemisphere), should also be taken into consideration to obtain a comprehensive explanation of the extant global distribution of vascular epiphytes.


Accidental epiphytes biodiversity ferns frost latitude temperate forests tropical forests water relations 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Botanisches Institut der Universität BaselBaselSchweiz
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteApdoPanama

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