Plant Ecology

, Volume 220, Issue 11, pp 1071–1084 | Cite as

Surface roots as a new ecological zone for occurrence of vascular epiphytes: a case study on Pseudobombax trees on inselbergs

  • Dayvid Rodrigues CoutoEmail author
  • Talitha Mayumi Francisco
  • Mário Luís Garbin
  • Henrique Machado Dias
  • Miriam Cristina A. Pereira
  • Luiz Menini Neto
  • José Eduardo Macedo Pezzopane


This study aimed to quantify the importance of surface roots as phorophyte ecological zones for vascular epiphytes in the lithophyte tree Pseudobombax. The study was conducted on phorophytes, trees that support epiphytes, in three neotropical granitoid rocky outcrops (inselbergs). We investigated how community composition and abundance of vascular epiphytes differed among different ecological zones and examined habitat associations on Pseudobombax. Based on a census of 90 trees, we found 5896 individual vascular epiphytes attributed to 137 species. Bromeliads and orchids were dominant. Our results show that surface roots represented an important ecological zone as 53% of the diversity and 20% of the total vascular epiphyte abundance were found within this zone. Abundance patterns differed among the zones and the lithophyte species Sinningia speciosa, Selaginella convoluta and Alcantarea patriae were associated with the surface roots. Our results reinforce the importance of the lithophyte tree Pseudobombax for the maintenance of epiphytic diversity in the tropical inselbergs of southeast Brazil, mainly due to its size and architecture. The presence of large surface roots considerably increases the habitat for different epiphytic groups, including species typical of inselbergs. Roots are thus an important ecological zone for epiphytic communities on inselbergs.


Community structure Holoepiphytes Johansson’s zones Lithophytes flora Metacommunity Neotropical 



The authors would like to express their thanks to the three anonymous reviewers and to editor Karen Harper for their valuable comments and suggestions on the manuscript; the Couto Mazza Family for granting access to their site (Pedra dos Pontões) and the ICMBio for support in the Caparaó National Park. We also thank Dr. Rodrigo de Andrade Kersten for suggestions for the methodology and the Instituto Nacional da Mata Atlântica (INMA) for granting us free access to the herbarium collection. We are grateful to the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for the scholarship granted to the first author. This research was part of the master’s dissertation of the first author, in the postgraduate program of Forest Sciences of the Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil.

Supplementary material

11258_2019_976_MOESM1_ESM.docx (40 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOCX 40 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação Em Ciências FlorestaisUniversidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Centro de Ciências Agrárias e EngenhariasJerônimo MonteiroBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-Graduação Em Ecologia E Recursos Naturais, Laboratório de Ciências AmbientaisUniversidade Estadual Do Norte Fluminense Darcy RibeiroCampos dos GoytacazesBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Centro de Ciências Exatas, Naturais e da SaúdeAlegreBrazil
  4. 4.Programa de Pós-graduação Em Ciências FlorestaisUniversidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Centro de Ciências Agrárias e EngenhariasJerônimo MonteiroBrazil
  5. 5.Programa de Pós-Graduação Em EcologiaInstituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Juiz de ForaJuiz de ForaBrazil

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