• Barva Transect;
  • beta diversity;
  • Chao-Sørenson;
  • elevational gradient;
  • epiphyte diversity;
  • Mantel test;
  • mid-domain effect;
  • mid-elevational bulge;
  • species richness


  • 1
    We examined in situ diversity and distribution of vascular epiphytes, as well as site environmental variables at six sites along a continuous elevational gradient (30–2600 m a.s.l.) of old-growth forest in Costa Rica.
  • 2
    A total of 555 species of vascular epiphytes from 130 genera of 53 families were identified to species or morphospecies. The ferns were the most diverse group, with 138 species, followed by orchids (112 species). Cloud forest at 1000 m was the richest site, representing the maximum of a pronounced mid-elevation peak in epiphyte species richness.
  • 3
    Spatial randomizations of recorded elevational ranges suggest that the overall elevational richness pattern of most epiphyte groups on this transect is substantially influenced by the mid-domain effect (MDE, the mid-elevation overlap of large-ranged species). Among the environmental factors considered (rainfall, temperature and canopy light environment), only rainfall was significantly correlated with richness.
  • 4
    Different patterns of richness for vascular epiphytes and for trees indicate that mechanisms differ between life forms.
  • 5
    We collected 26% of the estimated epiphyte species of Costa Rica along a single mountain transect. This, together with the finding that different groups and life forms varied in the elevation at which species richness peaked, highlights the need to conserve the few remaining intact elevational gradients in Latin America.