Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Weird Wednesday: Epiphytes Are Awesome

Alert Gardener Jim of South Florida sent me this snippet after he returned from Brazil. He noticed that trees in Sao Paolo were absolutely covered in lichen and epiphytes, and wondered what benefit, if any, there was to the ecosystem as a whole. Anyway, here's the answer:
Epiphyte-Covered Tree in Brazil, JR, 2014

Lichens Provide A Protective Coat   Andrew M. Sugden Science 6/6/14
"Lichens help even out temperatures and moisture levels in foggy deserts, according to a pioneering study of epiphytes: plants that grow on the stems and branches of larger plants. Stanton et al. studied the ecological role of lichens, mosses, and bromeliads inhabiting host trees in fog-fed desert ecosystems in Peru and Chile. They removed epiphytes from the columnar cacti and trees they were growing on and created artificial cacti at the field site, which they covered with collected epiphytes. Epiphytes affected the microclimatic conditions around the host plant: Their presence reduced both the amount of water that reached the ground and the amount that evaporated from the soil. They also buffered daily temperature fluctuations. Epiphytes are abundant in tropical forest ecosystems and they may play a considerable role in cycling water and nutrients."
Funct. Ecol. 10.1111/1365-2435.12249 (2014).

So the take-home is that we can love epiphytes (particularly bromeliads), and feel very righteous in doing so!
FIT Botanical Gardens, MR, 2014

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