Epiphytic and Terrestrial Mycorrhizas in a Lower Montane Costa Rican Cloud Forest

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Dark septate endophyte, La Estación Biológica, Monteverde, Mycorrhiza, Santa Elena Reserve

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The epiphyte community is the most diverse plant community in neotropical cloud forests and its collective biomass can exceed that of the terrestrial shrubs and herbs. However, little is known about the role of mycorrhizas in this community. We assessed the mycorrhizal status of epiphytic (Araceae, Clusiaceae, Ericaceae, and Piperaceae) and terrestrial (Clusiaceae, Ericaceae) plants in a lower montane cloud forest in Costa Rica. Arbuscular mycorrhizas were observed in taxa from Araceae and Clusiaceae; ericoid mycorrhizas were observed in ericaceous plants. This is the first report of intracellular hyphal coils characteristic of ericoid mycorrhizas in roots of Cavendishia melastomoides, Disterigma humboldtii, and Gaultheria erecta. Ericaceous roots were also covered by an intermittent hyphal mantle that penetrated between epidermal cells. Mantles, observed uniquely on ericaceous roots, were more abundant on terrestrial than on epiphytic roots. Mantle abundance was negatively correlated with gravimetric soil water content for epiphytic samples. Dark septate endophytic (DSE) fungi colonized roots of all four families. For the common epiphyte D. humboldtii, DSE structures were most abundant on samples collected from exposed microsites in the canopy. The presence of mycorrhizas in all epiphytes except Peperomia sp. suggests that inoculum levels and environmental conditions in the canopy of tropical cloud forests are generally conducive to the formation of mycorrhizas. These may impact nutrient and water dynamics in arboreal ecosystems.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Mycorrhiza, v. 13, issue 5, p. 257-264