University Of Tasmania

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Moss and vascular epiphyte distributions over host tree and elevation gradients in Australian subtropical rainforest

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 16:00 authored by Jennifer SangerJennifer Sanger, James KirkpatrickJames Kirkpatrick
There is a lack of comprehensive studies on the ecology of epiphytic flora in Australia’s rainforests. Globally, rainforest epiphyte distribution is determined by three main factors: micro-climate within the host tree; landscape changes in macro-climate; and the characteristics of the host tree. We tested the influence of these factors on the species richness and composition of vascular and non-vascular epiphytes in the subtropical rainforest of the Border Ranges in New South Wales. Vascular epiphytes and mosses were recorded in situ from four height zones, with 10 trees sampled at five elevations between 300 and 1100 m above sea level (asl). Vascular epiphyte species richness was highest in the inner canopy (6.3 species), whereas mosses tended to have a uniform distribution over the height zones (3.8–5.0 species). We found that both moss and vascular epiphyte species richness peaked at mid-elevations (500–700 m), with moss richness at a slightly higher elevation than the vascular epiphytes. Host tree characteristics (bark roughness, host size) explained very little of the species composition or richness of epiphytes. Strong patterns in species richness and composition over host tree and elevation gradients suggest that moisture, temperature and light may be the major influences on epiphyte distributions in the Border Ranges.


Publication title

Australian Journal of Botany










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


CSIRO Publishing

Place of publication

150 Oxford St, Po Box 1139, Collingwood, Australia, Victoria, 3066

Rights statement

Journal compilation Copyright CSIRO 2015

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  • Restricted

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Other environmental management not elsewhere classified

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