Photos from the field. Kraichak: Microclimate & Bryophyte Diversity
Kraichak, E. (2014), Microclimate Fluctuation Correlated with Beta Diversity of Epiphyllous Bryophyte Communities. Biotropica, 46: 575–582. doi: 10.1111/btp.12140
Site-to-site variation in community composition, or beta diversity, is a major component of regional diversity. While many mechanisms, such as dispersal limitation and habitat heterogeneity, have been shown to affect beta diversity, interactions between habitat heterogeneity and environmental fluctuation have not been thoroughly investigated. This study uses leaf-colonizing (epiphyllous) bryophyte communities as a model system to investigate the effects of microclimate fluctuation on beta diversity. I hypothesized that beta diversity would increase with increasing microclimate fluctuation, as niche breadth of species was reduced with increasing fluctuation. A total of 354 leaf-colonizing bryophyte communities from 18 sites on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia were collected and identified. At each site, temperature and relative humidity were measured and converted to vapor pressure deficit (VPD). My analyses showed that beta diversity among communities on different host types tended to increase with the increasing daily range of VPD at a given site. It is possible that high fluctuation in microclimate conditions augments the differences in habitat quality among host types, resulting in greater dissimilarities among epiphyllous communities. However, host niche breadths of major epiphyllous species did not decrease with increasing VPD range. Overall, the results suggest that beta diversity may increase with environmental fluctuation, but it is not likely to be the results of reduced niche breadth as theoretically suspected.