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Keywords:

  • biomass;
  • cloud forest;
  • cover;
  • epiphytes;
  • fog;
  • lowland;
  • microclimate

ABSTRACT

Recent work on bryophyte diversity in lowland forests of northern South America has suggested the existence of a new type of cloud forest, the ‘tropical lowland cloud forest’ (LCF). LCF occurs in river valleys in hilly areas with high air humidity and morning fog, and is rich in epiphytes. We explored epiphyte abundance and canopy microclimate of LCF in a lowland area (200–400 m asl) near Saül, central French Guiana. We analyzed the vertical distribution of epiphytic cover and biomass on 48 trees, in LCF and in lowland rain forest (LRF) without fog. Trees in LCF had significantly more epiphytic biomass than in LRF; mean total epiphytic biomass in LCF was about 59 g/m2, and 35 g/m2 in LRF. In all height zones on the trees, total epiphyte cover in LCF exceeded that in LRF, with ca 70 percent mean cover in LCF and ca 15 percent in LRF. During both wet and dry seasons, mean diurnal relative air humidity (RH) was higher in LCF than in LRF, and persistence of high RH after sunrise significantly longer in LCF. We suggest that the prolonged availability of high air humidity in LCF and the additional input of liquid water through fog, enhance epiphyte growth in LCF by shortening the desiccation period and lengthening the period of photosynthetic activity of the plants.