Dependence of epiphytic community on autochthonous and allochthonous sources of nitrogen in three forest habitats of southern Vietnam

  • A. K. EskovEmail author
  • V. G. Onipchenko
  • N. G. Prilepsky
  • E. V. Abakumov
  • G. L. Kolomeitseva
  • Nguyen Van Thinh
  • A. V. Tiunov
Regular Article



Experimental data concerning possible trophic relationships between phorophytes and epiphytes are contradictory. Several studies have indirectly shown that epiphytes affect the nitrogen cycle in tropical forests, but the degree of interaction between nutrition cycles of epiphytes and phorophytes remains unclear. We hypothesised that, in the case of preferential usage of autochthonous sources, a correlation between isotopic composition of epiphytes and phorophytes would be observed, whereas no such correlation suggests mainly external (atmospheric) N sources.


To identify the trophic relationship between epiphytes and phorophytes, the isotopic composition of nitrogen was studied in soils, phorophytes, epiphytes, and canopy plants having access to autochthonous nitrogen, such as parasites, ground-rooted climbers, or carnivorous plants. The study was conducted in three habitats in southern Vietnam: a savanna-like forest on Phu Quoc Island, a montane forest in Bidoup and a lowland forest in Cat Tien.


Isotopic composition of nitrogen was similar in different taxonomic and morphological groups of epiphytes. Indicating the dependence on wet atmospheric deposits, all epiphytes were 2–4‰ depleted in 15N relative to phorophytes and canopy plants having access to autochthonous nitrogen. A correlation in nitrogen isotopic composition between phorophytes and epiphytes was observed in two of the three studied habitats (R2 = 0.47 and 0.74 for Phu Quoc and Bidoup, respectively).


At the ecosystem level, the epiphytic community can have different degree of dependence on autochthonous and external nitrogen sources. Both, bulk δ15N values and the correlation between 15N content of epiphytes and phorophytes can indicate a relative contribution of autochthonous and allochthonous nitrogen in the nutrition of epiphytic plants.


Epiphytes Trophic relations Nitrogen nutrition Stable isotopes Isotopic ecology Vietnam 



This research was supported by the State Assignment of the Tzitzin Main Botanical Garden of Russian Academy of Sciences # 118021490111-5, at the Unique Scientific Installation Fund Greenhouse. The work of A.K. Eskov, E.V. Abakumov, and A. V. Tiunov was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (projects 18-04-00677 and 17-04-01856). The work of V.G. Onipchenko and N.G. Prilepsky was supported by a governmental contract of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, # АААА-А16-116021660037-7. We are grateful to the Joint Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Scientific and Technological Center, Dr. A.N. Kuznetsov and Dr. Nguyen Hong Du for organisation of field work.

Supplementary material

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11104_2019_4252_MOESM2_ESM.doc (196 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tzitzin Main Botanical GardenRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  2. 2.The Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Scientific and Technological CentreHo Chi MinhVietnam
  3. 3.Lomonosov Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  4. 4.Saint-Petersburg State UniversitySt.-PetersburgRussia
  5. 5.A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and EvolutionRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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