Photos from the field: Hsu et al. Epiphyte Richness in Taiwan

Hsu, R. C.-C., Wolf, J. H. D. and Tamis, W. L. M. (2014), Regional and Elevational Patterns in Vascular Epiphyte Richness on an East Asian Island. Biotropica, 46: 549–555. doi: 10.1111/btp.12131

The distribution of species on mountains has been related to various predictor variables, especially temperature. Thermal specialization—presumed to be more pronounced on tropical mountains than on temperate mountains—accounts for the elevational pattern of species richness and varies between organisms and geographic areas. In this study, the elevational and regional distribution patterns of 331 epiphyte species in Taiwan were explored using 39,084 botanic collections, mostly from herbaria. Species richness showed a peak in elevation at 500–1500 m. This peak could not be explained by a null model, the mid-domain effect, suggesting that environmental variables accounted mostly for the distribution of species on the mountains. Next, species distributions were modeled to assess epiphyte regional and elevational distribution patterns. The model results not only corroborated the position of the mid-elevation peak in richness, but also identified two mountain areas on the island with exceptionally high species richness. These areas of high epiphyte diversity coincide with areas of high rainfall in relation to the direction of the prevailing winds. Moreover, a subsequent exploratory ordination analysis showed a varied thermal preference between epiphyte subcategories (hemiepiphytes, dicotyledons, orchids, and ferns). In contrast to predictions by the elevational Rapoport’s rule, ordination analysis also showed that the degree of thermal specialization increased with elevation, suggesting that highland species may be especially vulnerable to global warming.

Photo by Brian Chiu

Photo by Brian Chiu https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecogarden/14078040135 There exists an abundant population of endangered Pleione formosana on canopies of some undisturbed forests

Photo by Brian Chiu

Photo by Brian Chiu. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecogarden/14678072991 The terrestrial Paris polyphylla var. stenophylla was recorded on the 30-meter high canopy of Picea trees.

Photo by Brian Chiu

Photo by Brian Chiu. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecogarden/14769634309 The primary forest at mid elevations in Taiwan

Photo by Brian Chiu

Photo by Brian Chiu. Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ecogarden/14832888506 Rappelling from an inventory of a giant cypress tree