Ecosociological studies in Ecuadorian bryophyte communities III. Life forms, life strategies and ecomorphology of the submontane and montane epiphytic vegetation of S Ecuador
Kürschner, Harald; Parolly, Gerald
The distribution of life forms, life strategies and selected ecomorphological adaptations is studied in submontane and montane epiphytic bryophyte communities in order to record the 'ecological response' of species groups towards environmental demands. This method can be used for rapid monitoring because the defined 'functional types' reflect prevalent key conditions (humidity, water supply, desiccation risk, light climate). Mat-forming 'passive' perennial stayers and perennial shuttle species with a similar 'basic architecture' predominate in the lowland sector of the study area (submontane, bryophyte alliance: Symbiezidio transversalis-Ceratolejeunion cubensis). In the cooler, more humid montane forests (bryophyte alliance: Omphalantho filiformis-Plagiochilion apicedentis) often enshrouded in mist, they are replaced by fan and weft-forming 'vegetative' perennial stayers and perennial shuttle species. Species of those habitats demonstrate ecomorphological structures which further water uptake and condensation of fog- and mist-derived water-vapour. Higher up, in the ecotone between the Lower and Upper montane forests, an 'oreal' pattern is evident: an increased proportion of cushion, short and especially tall turf-forming 'generative' perennial stayers and perennial shuttle species which show the necessity of overcoming xeric conditions during cloudless periods. Species of increasingly open habitats often have a dense rhizoid tomentum and central strand for rapid and effective water conduction. As expected, the clearing community in terms of structure and life strategy stands apart from its counterpart of virgin forest at the same elevation, allowing interpretation of the different life history and ecomorphological sets recorded as indicators of disturbance.