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Ecological stoichiometry of the epiphyte community in a subtropical forest canopy

Cite this dataset

Huang, Junbiao et al. (2019). Ecological stoichiometry of the epiphyte community in a subtropical forest canopy [Dataset]. Dryad.


Epiphytes in tree canopies make a considerable contribution to the species diversity, aboveground biomass, and nutrient pools in forest ecosystems. However, the nutrient status of epiphytes and their possible adaptations to nutrient deficiencies in the forest canopy remain unclear. Therefore, we analyzed the stoichiometry of five macroelements (C, N, P, K, and Ca) in four taxonomic groups (lichens, bryophytes, ferns, and spermatophytes) to investigate this issue in a subtropical montane moist evergreen broad-leaved forest in Southwest China. We found that the interspecific variations in element concentrations and mass ratios were generally greater than the intraspecific variations. And there were significant stoichiometric differences among functional groups. Allometric relationships between N and P across the epiphyte community indicated that P might be in greater demand than N with an increase in nutrients. Although canopy nutrients were deficient, most epiphytes could still maintain high N and P concentrations and low N:P ratios. Moreover, ferns and spermatophytes allocated more limited nutrients to leaves than to stems and roots. To alleviate frequent drought stress in the forest canopy, vascular epiphytes maintained several times higher K concentrations in their leaves than in the tissues of lichens and bryophytes. Our results suggest that epiphytes may have evolved specific nutrient characteristics and adaptations, so that they can distribute in heterogeneous canopy habitats and maintain the stability of nutrient metabolism.