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Epiphylls widely colonize vascular leaves in moist tropical forests. Understanding the effects of epiphylls on leaf traits of host plants is critical for understanding ecological function of epiphylls. A study was conducted in a rain forest to investigate leaf traits of the host plants Photinia prunifolia colonized with epiphyllous liverworts and foliicolous lichens as well as those of uncolonized leaves. Our results found that the colonization of lichens significantly decreased leaf water content (LWC), chlorophyll (Chl) a and a + b content, and Chl a/b of P. prunifolia but increased Chl b content, while that of liverworts did not affect them as a whole. The variations of net photosynthetic rates among host leaves colonized with different coverage of lichens before or after removal treatment (a treatment to remove epiphylls from leaf surface) were greater than that colonized with liverworts. The full cover of lichens induced an increase of light compensation point (LCP) by 21% and a decrease of light saturation point (LSP) by 54% for their host leaves, whereas that of liverworts displayed contrary effects. Compared with the colonization of liverworts, lichens exhibited more negative effects on the leaf traits of P. prunifolia in different stages of colonization. The results suggest that the responses of host leaf traits to epiphylls are affected by the epiphyllous groups and coverage, which are also crucial factors in assessing ecofunctions of epiphylls in tropical forests.


Originally published in The Scientific World Journal.

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