Physiological Ecology of Tropical Bryophytes

  • Sebastian Wagner
  • Maaike Y. Bader
  • Gerhard Zotz
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 37)


Bryophytes in the tropics occur from cool alpine grasslands to warm lowland sites and from cloud forests to dry forests, varying markedly in abundance and diversity in these habitats. This chapter deals with the current knowledge of the ecophysiology of tropical bryophytes attempting to explain some of these abundance patterns, in particular the marked increase in bryophyte biomass with altitude in rain and cloud forests. As data are scarce, we include data on, physiologically rather similar, lichens in our account where appropriate. We focus mostly on carbon relations, and water, nutrients, light, CO2 and temperature are discussed as co-determinants of the carbon balance. In particular, we address the hypothesis that the surprisingly low bryophyte abundance in lowland rainforests is due to the limitation of net carbon gain by fast drying and low light levels during the day combined with moist and warm conditions at night, which promote high respiration rates. The timing of hydration is crucial in determining this diel balance between photosynthesis and respiration. Temperature is important in determining moisture loss rates and nocturnal carbon loss through respiration – if respiration does not acclimatize to higher temperatures. Since carbon balance precariously depends on daily hydration patterns, future climate change may pose a serious problem to tropical lowland bryophytes.


Carbon Balance Desiccation Tolerance Dark Respiration Cloud Forest Carbon Gain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank O. Lange, B. Büdel, A. Meyer and H. Zellner (Würzburg and Kaiserslautern, Germany) for permission to use unpublished microclimate data, and S. Rottenberger (Würzburg) for permission to used unpublished acclimatization data. Our own current studies are funded by the German Research Foundation, (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: BA 3843/3-1). Permission to work in Panama was granted by the local authorities (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente; SC/P-7-11, SEX/P-62-11, SEX/P-7-10).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Wagner
    • 1
  • Maaike Y. Bader
    • 1
  • Gerhard Zotz
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences, Functional Ecology of PlantsUniversity of OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaPanama

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