Trees influence epiphyte and invertebrate communities

January 5, 2012 Dr. Mike Fay
Tropical trees covered with epiphytes

Studies in temperate regions have demonstrated that genetic differences between individual trees affect the ecological communities and ecosystem processes associated with them. Now scientists at Manchester University and Kew have examined the extent to which this phenomenon occurs between genetic variants of a single tree species in a diverse complex ecosystem such as a tropical forest.

The team assessed the influence of within-species in the tree Brosimum alicastrum (Moraceae) on the epiphytic and invertebrate communities associated with individual trees in a Neotropical rainforest. They found a significant relationship between the genetic distance between trees and the specific communities of the epiphytic plants growing on them, the invertebrates living in the leaf litter around their bases, and the invertebrates living on their trunks. The more genetically similar trees were, the more similar were the epiphyte and invertebrate communities living on and under them.

These observations have profound implications for whole ecosystem conservation management, since maintaining sufficient genetic diversity at the primary producer level will enhance of other in the same habitat.

Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39.

Explore further: Ferns took to the trees and thrived

More information: Zytynska, S. R., et al. (2011). Genetic variation in a tropical tree species influences the associated epiphytic plant and invertebrate communities in a complex forest ecosystem. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366:1329-1336

Related Stories

Ferns took to the trees and thrived

July 2, 2009

( -- As flowering plants like giant trees quickly rose to dominate plant communities during the Cretaceous period, the ferns that had preceded them hardly saw it as a disappointment.

Some trees 'farm' bacteria to help supply nutrients

July 29, 2010

Some trees growing in nutrient-poor forest soil may get what they need by cultivating specific root microbes to create compounds they require. These microbes are exceptionally efficient at turning inorganic minerals into ...

Genetic differences influence the structure of communities

April 7, 2011

( -- Scientists from The University of Manchester are among a group of researchers investigating how genetic differences among individuals contribute to the way ecological communities form, interact and change ...

Recommended for you

A better way to read the genome

October 9, 2015

UConn researchers have sequenced the RNA of the most complicated gene known in nature, using a hand-held sequencer no bigger than a cell phone.

Threat posed by 'pollen thief' bees uncovered

October 9, 2015

A new University of Stirling study has uncovered the secrets of 'pollen thief' bees - which take pollen from flowers but fail to act as effective pollinators - and the threat they pose to certain plant species.

Mapping the protein universe

October 9, 2015

To understand how life works, figure out the proteins first. DNA is the architect of life, but proteins are the workhorses. After proteins are built using DNA blueprints, they are constantly at work breaking down and building ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.