Structure of the Epophyte Community in a Tropical Montane Forest in SW China

Vascular epiphytes are an understudied and particularly important component of tropical forest ecosystems. However, owing to the difficulties of access, little is known about the properties of epiphyte-host tree communities and the factors structuring them, especially in Asia. We investigated factors structuring the vascular epiphyte-host community and its network properties in a tropical montane forest in Xishuangbanna, SW China. Vascular epiphytes were surveyed in six plots located in mature forests. Six host and four micro-site environmental factors were investigated. Epiphyte diversity was strongly correlated with host size (DBH, diameter at breast height), while within hosts the highest epiphyte diversity was in the middle canopy and epiphyte diversity was significantly higher in sites with canopy soil or a moss mat than on bare bark. DBH, elevation and stem height explained 22% of the total variation in the epiphyte species assemblage among hosts, and DBH was the most important factor which alone explained 6% of the variation.