"Our work shows that there may be structuring within these ecosystems at the level of the trees, which has high biological significance in terms of rainforest conservation and restoration."
The team used ropes and harnesses to climb high into the forest canopy and count each orchid and bromeliad plant growing on 53 different Breadnut trees (Brosimum alicastrum). They also used pitfall traps, leaf litter collections and trunk traps to survey the invertebrates on each tree.
"In total, more than 2,100 individual plants were counted from 46 orchid and 17 bromeliad species, and 1,900 invertebrates from more than 80 species were also recorded," said Dr Sharon Zytynska, who carried out much of the work.
"The trees were all genotyped to tell us how genetically similar each one was to another and then the associated communities of each tree compared. The findings we observed suggest that a population of genetically similar trees would host a reduced diversity of plants and animals.
"This would have a knock-on effect for higher organisms too, such as the pollinators associated with the orchids or the amphibians that feed on the invertebrates, so have important implications for conservation efforts in these forests."
|Contact: Aeron Haworth|
University of Manchester