Epiphytic ferns and bryophytes of Tasmanian tree-ferns: A comparison of diversity and composition between two host species
Roberts, NR and Dalton, PJ and Jordan, GJ, Epiphytic ferns and bryophytes of Tasmanian tree-ferns: A comparison of diversity and composition between two host species, Austral Ecology, 30, (2) pp. 146-154. ISSN 1442-9985 (2005) [Refereed Article]
Ferns, bryophytes and lichens are the most diverse groups of plants in wet forests in south-eastern Australia. However, management of this diversity is limited by a lack of ecological knowledge of these groups and the difficulty in identifying species for non-experts. These problems may be alleviated by the identification and characterization of suitable proxies for this diversity. Epiphytic substrates are potential proxies. To evaluate the significance of some epiphytic substrates, fern and bryophyte assemblages on a common tree-fern species, Dicksonia antarctica (soft tree-fern), were compared with those on a rare species, Cyathea cunninghamii (slender tree-fern), in eastern Tasmania, Australia. A total of 97 fern and bryophyte species were recorded on D. antarctica from 120 trunks at 10 sites, and 64 species on C. cunninghamii from 39 trunks at four of these sites. The trunks of C. cunninghamii generally supported fewer species than D. antarctica, but two mosses (particularly Hymenodon pilifer) and one liverwort showed significant associations with this host. Several other bryophytes and epiphytic ferns showed an affinity for the trunks of D. antarctica. Species assemblages differed significantly between both sites and hosts, and the differences between hosts varied significantly among sites. The exceptionally high epiphytic diversity associated with D. antarctica suggests that it plays an important ecological role in Tasmanian forests. Evidently C. cunninghamii also supports a diverse suite of epiphytes, including at least one specialist species.