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Journal Article

Microclimatic conditions and water content fluctuations experienced by epiphytic bryophytes in an Amazonian rain forest


Walter,  David
Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. S. E. Trumbore, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Löbs, N., Walter, D., Barbosa, C. G. G., Brill, S., Cerqueira, G. R., de Oliveira Sá, M., et al. (2020). Microclimatic conditions and water content fluctuations experienced by epiphytic bryophytes in an Amazonian rain forest. Biogeosciences, 17(21), 5399-5416. doi:10.5194/bg-17-5399-2020.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-17FB-9
In the Amazonian rain forest, major parts of trees and shrubs are covered by epiphytic cryptogams of great taxonomic variety, but their relevance in biosphere-atmosphere exchange, climate processes, and nutrient cycling are largely unknown. As cryptogams are poikilohydric organisms, they are physiologically active only under moist conditions. Thus, information on their water content, as well as temperature and light conditions experienced by them are essential to analyzing their impact on local, regional, and even global biogeochemical processes.

In this study, we present data on the microclimatic and ecophysiological conditions of epiphytic bryo-phytes along a vertical gradient and combine these with mesoclimate data collected at the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) in the Amazonian rain forest between October 2014 and December 2016. While the monthly average mesoclimatic ambient light intensities above the canopy revealed only minor variations, the light intensities incident on the bryophytes showed different patterns at different heights, probably depending on individual shading by vegetation. At 1.5 m height, monthly average light intensities were similar throughout the year and individual values were extremely low, exceeding 5 µmol m−2 s−1 pho-tosynthetic photon flux density only during 8 % of the time. Temperatures showed only minor variations throughout the year with higher values and larger height-dependent differences during the dry season. Water contents of bryophytes varied depending on precipitation and air humidity. Whereas bryophytes at higher levels were affected by frequent wetting and drying events, those close to the forest floor remained wet over longer time spans during the wet seasons. Based on estimates of the potential duration of net pho-tosynthesis and dark respiration, our data suggest that water contents are decisive for overall physiological activity, and light intensities determine whether net photosynthesis or dark respiration occurs, whereas temperature variations are only of minor relevance in this environment. In general, bryophytes growing close to the forest floor are limited by light availability, while those growing in the canopy must withstand larger variations in microclimatic conditions, especially in the dry season. Measurements of CO2 gas ex-change are essential to elucidate their physiological activity patterns in greater detail.