New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2011) 35(3): 296- 301

Do host bark traits influence trunk epiphyte communities?

Short Communication
Sarah V. Wyse *
Bruce R. Burns  
  1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Tamaki Campus Building 733, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Host bark traits are known to affect the characteristics of epiphyte communities in forests worldwide; however, few investigations of such relationships have been undertaken in New Zealand forests. By examining the trunk epiphyte communities on four co-occurring forest tree species (Agathis australis, Dacrydium cupressinum, Knightia excelsa and Vitex lucens) representing a range of bark characteristics, we sought evidence that bark traits may shape these communities. Sampling was conducted on tree trunks in the Waitakere and Hunua ranges in the Auckland Region. As expected, the rough but lightly shedding bark of Vitex lucens was found to support many epiphytes, whereas the coarsely flaking bark surface of Dacrydium cupressinum supported few epiphytes. Conversely, despite bark with a smooth texture that sheds in large flakes, and contrary to the suggestions of previous authors, Agathis australis trunks were found to support the greatest numbers of epiphytes and this species was one of the most frequent epiphyte hosts. The individual epiphytes found on Agathis australis, however, were significantly smaller and more appressed to the trunk than those on the other trees, and species composition differed from the other host species.