Trees influence epiphyte and invertebrate communities
Scientists have found that genetically similar tropical trees host similar species assemblages of epiphytes and invertebrates.
04 Jan 2012
Tropical trees covered with epiphytes
Studies in temperate regions have demonstrated that genetic differences between individual trees affect the ecological communities and ecosystem processes associated with them. Now scientists at Manchester University and Kew have examined the extent to which this phenomenon occurs between genetic variants of a single tree species in a diverse complex ecosystem such as a tropical forest.
When they looked closer
The team assessed the influence of within-species genetic variation in the tree Brosimum alicastrum (Moraceae) on the epiphytic and invertebrate communities associated with individual trees in a Neotropical rainforest. They found a significant relationship between the genetic distance between trees and the specific communities of the epiphytic plants growing on them, the invertebrates living in the leaf litter around their bases, and the invertebrates living on their trunks. The more genetically similar trees were, the more similar were the epiphyte and invertebrate communities living on and under them.
These observations have profound implications for whole ecosystem conservation management, since maintaining sufficient genetic diversity at the primary producer level will enhance species diversity of other plants and animals in the same habitat.
Item from Dr Mike Fay (Head of Genetics, Kew)
Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 39
Zytynska, S. R., Fay, M. F., Penney, D. & Preziosi, R. F. (2011). Genetic variation in a tropical tree species influences the associated epiphytic plant and invertebrate communities in a complex forest ecosystem. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366:1329-1336
Help Kew break new ground and inspire new generations
By making a donation to Kew today you can help our scientists to find out more about the fascinating world of plants, break new ground and inspire generations of young people to get to know plants better.
Our scientific programmes are focused on understanding plants and conserving the world's plant life and habitats at risk. Plants are essential to life on earth. In a world where the sustainability of the planet’s rich biodiversity is becoming less certain, Kew’s science work is ever more critical. Find out how your donation can make a difference.
Browse Kew news
- In the Gardens
- Science and conservation
- How you are helping
- Specialist science
- Kew blogs
- All Kew news
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
- around the world
- the UK
- at risk
- ground breaking
- needs help
- english heritage
- Kew overseas
- verge of extinction
- wet tropics
- gifts that help
- South East Asia
- hot spot
- english garden
Kew on twitter
Unable to parse the data in the RSS file.