Epiphytes Important for Biodiversity

Posted by Gregory Gough on January 1, 2009

Brazilian Forest, (painting),  Name: Heade, Martin Johnson,  Date: 1860s

Scientists tested the importance of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) in supporting a variety of arthropod species in a shade grown coffee plantation in Veracruz, Mexico. They compared trees with epiphytes to trees that had been pruned of them.

The trees with epiphytes had 90 percent more arthropods and 22 percent more species of arthropods. And with respect to large arthropods, those bigger than five millimeters, and an important food source for birds, the difference was even more dramatic: 184 percent more individuals and 113 percent more species.

Agroforestry systems, such as shade grown coffee and shade grown cacao, are important sanctuaries for conserving the biodiversity of tropical forests. Epiphytes, sometimes pruned by coffee farmers, provide an important niche for tropical organisms.

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