Bryophyte carbon balances in tropical lowland cloud forests

Maaike Bader, Jörg Bendix, Lukas Lehnert (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München), Robbert Gradstein (University of Göttingen, Germany & Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Pairs, France), Monica B. Berdugo (Postdoctoral Researcher), Marius J. Pohl (PhD student), Louise Guerot (MSc student), Leander Heyer (BSc student), Sarah Bachman (BSc student)

Funded by DFG

Epiphytes, and in particular bryophytes, thrive in tropical forests with a high and constant moisture supply, such as in montane cloud forests. In lowland forests, bryophytes tend to develop less biomass and diversity, but in some of these forests, frequent fog events in the forest canopy appear to allow the development of very diverse bryophyte communities. In the DFG-funded project “A global approach to analyze the extent of the newly detected Tropical Lowland Cloud Forest (TLCF) based on a large-scale analysis of fog frequency and epiphyte growth, with a special focus on South America”, we aim to map out where TLCFs are distributed outside their known locations in French Guyana. To this end, we develop methods for remote-sensing-based fog mapping and combine the emerging fog-frequency maps with other climate data (collected in the rainforest canopy and based on larger-scale reanalysis data) to model carbon balances of epiphytic bryophytes in tropical lowland forests. With this modelling we investigate the effects of different weather conditions, including morning fog, on bryophyte performance, thus testing a mechanistic connection between the observed fog and the changes in epiphytic bryophyte abundance. This modelling exercise is complemented by field observations of epiphytic bryophyte diversity patterns, comparing diversity patterns across scales and between rain-forest and cloud-forest locations.