Tank bromeliad transplants as an enrichment strategy in southern Costa Rica
Estefania P. Fernandez Barrancos, J. Leighton Reid, James Aronson
Epiphytes represent up to 50% of all vascular plant species in neotropical forests but they are among the slowest plants to recolonize regenerating ecosystems. This discrepancy underlines the need for restoration ecologists to learn how to assist the colonization of organisms in this key functional group. Transplanting tank bromeliads (i.e. bromeliads featuring overlapping leaves that form a water impounding rosette) could be a good approach in the neotropics, where abundant, fallen bromeliads can be sustainably collected from the forest floor. Moreover, tank bromeliads could accelerate restoration processes by providing relatively stable microenvironments for invertebrates, thus helping them resist severe drought and high temperatures, such as predicted in light of many climate change models.We transplanted 60 individuals of the tank bromeliad Werauhia gladioliflora onto trunks and branches of comparable size and orientation on three host tree species. The study took place in three long-term restoration plantations located in a tropical premontane rainforest zone in southern Costa Rica. Transplant survivorship after 9 months varied among sites, from 65 to 95%. Transplants hosted twice as many arthropod orders as untreated control branches, and they buffered microclimates during the driest (+1.7 to 19.7% relative humidity) and warmest (−0.5 to 5.0∘C) times of the day. Our results suggest that bromeliad transplantation is a cost-effective (circa $0.5 USD/successful transplant) strategy to assist the recovery of epiphyte diversity in forest restoration sites with minimal impact on source populations. Longer-term studies are needed to test this strategy for other epiphyte families or for mixed-taxa assemblages found on fallen branches.
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