Aline B. Horwath 1 , 2 , Jessica Royles 1 , Richard Tito 3 , 4 , José A. Gudiño 5 , Noris Salazar Allen 5 , William Farfan-Rios 3 , 6 , Joshua M. Rapp 6 , 7 , Miles R. Silman 6 , Yadvinder Malhi 8 , Varun Swamy 9 , Jean Paul Latorre Farfan 3 , 10 , Howard Griffiths 1
23 January 2019
Liverworts and mosses are a major component of the epiphyte flora of tropical montane forest ecosystems. Canopy access was used to analyse the distribution and vertical stratification of bryophyte epiphytes within tree crowns at nine forest sites across a 3400 m elevational gradient in Peru, from the Amazonian basin to the high Andes. The stable isotope compositions of bryophyte organic material ( 13C/ 12C and 18O/ 16O) are associated with surface water diffusive limitations and, along with C/N content, provide a generic index for the extent of cloud immersion. From lowland to cloud forest δ 13C increased from −33‰ to −27‰, while δ 18O increased from 16.3‰ to 18.0‰. Epiphytic bryophyte and associated canopy soil biomass in the cloud immersion zone was estimated at up to 45 t dry mass ha −1, and overall water holding capacity was equivalent to a 20 mm precipitation event. The study emphasizes the importance of diverse bryophyte communities in sequestering carbon in threatened habitats, with stable isotope analysis allowing future elevational shifts in the cloud base associated with changes in climate to be tracked.