Shade coffee farms often plant young trees among the coffee plants for shade. As these trees age, they give us an opportunity to study how epiphytes arrive and colonize the trees over time. We documented that trees accumulate epiphytes exponentially over time and that different epiphyte species arrive at different phases of tree ontogeny. Small trees in coffee farms with large trees nearby that already contained epiphytes were colonized more quickly than in even-aged stands of small trees. See Publications to read more.
Collaborators: Dr. Don Waller, Ingrid Torrez-Luna
Epiphytes and Global Change
Some epiphyte species may be more sensitive to climate and land use changes than others. These changes may also affect overall epiphyte species richness. I found evidence that vascular epiphyte diversity is closely linked to bryophyte cover and bryophytes are in turn highly sensitive to climate. Predicted future climate changes in the montane forest regions of Nicaragua could result in cascading losses of vascular epiphytes as bryophyes decline in a warmer and drier climate. Land use changes from forests to more open environments may exacerbate these patterns.
I also use functional traits as a tool to understand epiphyte ecology. Read more about those projects here.