We address the question to which degree ridge habitats in tropical montane forests contribute to overall plant diversity by analysing patterns of pteridophyte (i.e. lycophytes and ferns) assemblages on ridges and slopes in three montane forest sites near Podocarpus National Park, Ecuador. The analyses, which involved 158 pteridophyte species (110 terrestrial, 96 epiphytic, 48 both) from 28 plots of 20 m × 20 m (or an equivalent of 400 m2), showed that more species were typical of one of the three study sites than of one of the two habitats (ridge/slope). As found in previous studies, alpha diversity on ridges was lower than on slopes, accounted for by the absence of numerous species that are found on slopes. Pteridophyte assemblages on ridges were more similar across study sites than those on slopes. Thus, unlike the structurally comparable (i.e. stunted, open) Amazonian forests, the studied montane ridge forests harbour fairly homogenous pteridophytes assemblages with very few specialised species. Our study implies that slope forests are of higher conservation priority for pteridophytes in the study region than ridge habitats. However, comparative studies are needed because other geographical regions and other groups of organisms may not share this pattern.
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We thank Nicole Mandl and S. Robbert Gradstein for field assistance and scientific input, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, grant GR 1588/7) for financial support, and the Fundacíon Científica San Francisco for providing research facilities.
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Kessler, M., Lehnert, M. Do ridge habitats contribute to pteridophyte diversity in tropical montane forests? A case study from southeastern Ecuador. J Plant Res 122, 421–428 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-009-0231-y
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