Myself and the NZ Tree Project team are beavering away down in Pureora and I thought you might like to see some of the canopy flora around us.
Dave Kelly, Jenny Ladley & their team at Canterbury University have been doing great work on native mistletoes in the South Island. The Science Learning Hub made some some interesting videos that sum up their contribution to conservation of these fascinating species. Unfortunately, I can't embed the videos but here are the links:
Dave Kelly describing the Canterbury Mistletoe Research Programme:
Dave Kelly talking about pollination of mistletoes and other native plants (makes science sound so easy!):
Jenny Ladley describing how she discovered the unusual pollination relationships in the beech mistletoe:
Dave Kelly talks about the pollination services provided (or not) by exotic/introduced bird species:
Candela Marco-Mendez from the University of Alicante along with colleagues from Spain & the USA has recently published some research on the effect of seagrass epiphytes for herbivore grazing preferences. In other words: do marine epiphytes make seagrass nicer or nastier? The seagrass species studied were Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa.
The herbivores studied were the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus and the fish Sarpa salpa which are both important herbivores in the study site of Cabo de las Huertas in the Western Mediterranean. The urchin and fish are commonly observed in shallow seagrass meadows and rocky bottom oceans.
The team undertook tethering experiments, herbivore abundance and feeding observations, food choice experiments and epiphytic community analysis.
Here are a few key results:
The seagrass epiphytes likely increase the nutritional value of the seagrass. The authors conclude by saying that their study "indicated the complexity of seagrass-herbivore interactions and suggested that final seagrass consumption rates are not only determined by food preferences, but also by factors that could influence herbivore behavior by changing their priorities such as predation risk and/or home-range mobility."
In summary, the seagrass-epiphyte-herbivore relationship is a complex one but this research has done a great job of highlighting the ecological role of epiphytes in a very different, non-forest, habitat.
Starting tomorrow, the New Zealand Tree Project aims to create the first full photograph of a NZ native tree. The Tree Project team will soon be gathering to sort final details, tweak equipment, pack vehicles and do last minute errands. We head down to Pureora next week with the assistance of these fabulous sponsors:
The NZ Tree Project Team mug shots! Top left: Catherine Kirby, Top right: Steven Pearce, Bottom left: Andrew Harrison, Bottom right: Jen Sanger.
We were all inspired by the 2009 and 2012 redwood portraits by National Geographic and decided that doing something similar in New Zealand would not only be great fun but could be a fantastic way to celebrate our incredible trees and forests. We hope that the final photograph will be inspiring, motivating and educational. We will be complimenting this photograph with a 3D film of the tree, a short documentary and a behind-the-scenes experience. Phew! Lots to do in the next few weeks.
The project in based in Pureora Forest which is one of the most spectacular forests left in the North Island. It took a while to find a good spot for tree photography because of the lovely, thick understorey blocking our view but when we did find it, it was definitely worth the wait.
A great opportunity for the project team was presented by a tawa that has conveniently come down in front of a large rimu. This tree fall has created a line of sight through the understorey that is crucial for the photographs. It also provides a handy perch from which to survey the area!
So that is about all for now. Wish us luck and lets hope for minimal problems (like rope bags stuck in trees!). From the whole team, thanks for your support, we'll be in touch with updates soon!
An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant... so what would we call a plant that grows on a shoe???
The French artist and designer Christophe Guinet has been exploring the use of plant materials to create the most beautiful Nike shoes that I have ever seen!
This interesting work is undoubtedly painfully slow but I think the results really do reflect the delicacy of a small orchid on a host tree or the interwoven communities of moss and ferns amongst flaky tree bark.
If you used epiphytic species and kept the shoe in the right environment, you might even be able to keep them alive... maybe moss and Bulbophyllum pygmaeum?
To see more, check out Christophe's website: www.epiphytegarden.com
Fancy a fix of New Zealand canopy flora? Here a few websites that share quality information on epiphytes, vines, mistletoes and more:
The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network is a great source of information and photos of native and exotic plants. Running since 2003, this network has many databases, tools and online features that help people to conserve our native plants. The network has 600 members across the world but the website is also regularly used by hundreds of non-members. Members work in various ways to protect the unique indigenous plant life of New Zealand.
What is great about NZPCN?
NatureWatch NZ is a recording website for people to share their observations of nature in New Zealand. This includes plants, birds, bugs and everything in between. They are aiming to "build a living record of life in New Zealand that scientists and environmental managers can use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone can use to learn more about New Zealand's amazing natural history."
What is great about NatureWatch NZ?
This website is run by Landcare Research and is clearly explained on the homepage:
"This site provides access to information on plant taxa that occur in New Zealand. The site combines data from the New Zealand Plant Names Database and the Allan Herbarium Specimen database – providing access to information on the scientific and vernacular names, distribution and collection data, keys, descriptions and images. It currently includes the data for the seed plants, mosses, liverworts, lichens and freshwater algae."
The database can be searched by name, collection, description, image and literature. This is a good site for keeping up with botanical name changes.
Landcare Research also run Ngā Tipu Whakaoranga - Māori Plant Use Database which has fantastic information about traditional plant use.
The Flora of New Zealand is a series of books that have been the key source of botanical information in NZ for many years. However, the sizeable books are out of date so Landcare Research, Te Papa, and NIWA have launched the eflora or "Flora of New Zealand Online". Their goal is "to provide New Zealand with a dynamic, continually updated, electronically-based Flora. It will be based on new systematic research and will bring together information from our network of databases and online resources. Users will have easy access to the most authoritative, accurate, and up to date information on New Zealand plants."
The website has information from the latest Flora of NZ books and is steadily being updated with our latest understandings.
I hope these are useful links. If I've left any key resources out please let me know through the comment function.
Our modern landscape is a patchwork of forest, agriculture and urban land use. We rely on the forests to host and protect the majority of our native epiphyte, vine and mistletoe species. However, there are many opportunities to have these interesting species much closer to our urban homes.
I'm not aware of any formal investigations of people's backyard epiphyte diversity but I know of a few examples where home-owners are passionately growing all sorts of perching plants. The best local example is probably from Mr. Epiphyte Tree himself:
Kristoffer Hylander from Stockholm University and Sileshi Nemomissa from Addis Ababa University undertook a study in Ethiopia to investigate epiphyte populations on native coffee shurbs in home gardens. They found that these native shrubs growing in people's backyards were hosting between 6 and 27 epiphytic species and collectively, they hosted more species and more unique species than did other native trees in the same setting.
I don't think that the Ethiopian situation is mirrored in New Zealand because we can't achieve forest-like humidity in urban centres but I would be interested to hear from anyone who has a good epiphyte load in their home garden, either planted or naturally occurring?
In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of garden epiphytes from around the world:
Greetings and welcome back to the epiphyte blog for 2015! We're going to start the year with some brand new and very interesting research.
Carl Rosier from Rutgers State University of New Jersey led a team on St Catherine’s Island to study throughfall under three scenarios: clear canopy, bare trees and trees laden with Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). Throughfall is defined as "the part of rainfall or other precipitation which falls to the forest floor from the canopy". The team assessed the differences in precipitation input, ion enrichment, and ion flux in the soils of each scenario.
The researchers found that throughfall water supply diminished with increasing canopy cover, yet the soils received increased Na+ , Cl- , PO4 3-, and SO4 2- from the canopy. The presence of the epiphyte T. usneoides diminished throughfall NO3 - , but enhanced NH4 +. As a result, the upper soil layer had different soil chemistry between the open canopy, tree canopy and epiphyte-laden tree canopy (A, B & C below).
The research article states that "these results suggest that modifications of forest canopy structures are capable of affecting ... soil microbial community structure via throughfall when canopies’ biomass distribution is highly heterogeneous."
Thinking about NZ forests, it certainly isn't hard to believe that the soils in A, B & C (below) would be different. Simplified, epiphytes intercept water and nutrients from the canopy and atmosphere, transform them and deliver them in different quantities and forms to the forest floor. And this all varies depending on the flora and fauna within the epiphyte community... gets ya thinking!
Well not really... there weren't any explosives but there certainly was a crowd! The 11th of December marked a huge milestone for the Environmental Research Institute and myself as the Field Guide to New Zealand's Epiphytes, Vines & Mistletoes was launched.
The 261 page publication was well meet with over 60 people attending and purchasing books. Signing these books was a real privilege and an experience I'll never forget. Thanks to my colleagues for a creating a lovely setting with many plants and decorations in the ERI foyer.
Refreshments provided by the Environmental Research Institute and Waikato Botanical Society were fantastic and I think a good time was had by all.
Our team spent the day of the 12th tidying up and then packaging up all the pre-release orders. 117 field guides were sent out earlier this week and I must thank everyone who ordered for their support, I hope you enjoy your festive epiphyting.
If you haven't yet got your hands on a copy, the Best Little Bookstore is now handling orders and if you're quick you might even get in before Christmas!
So what's next? Well, the New Zealand Tree Project has really taken off with lots of planning underway for fieldwork in March. Any support would be greatly appreciated so check out our website or facebook page to make a supportive comment or maybe even a donation (rewards available!).
A few weeks ago I had my mind blown at the John Child Bryophyte and Lichen workshop. I need to do some serious revision before I can share some of what I learnt but in the meantime, here is a photo blog about the vascular epiphytes I came across in the beautiful Kaimai ranges.
Watch this space for a beginner's account of bryophytes (I didn't even get close to learning about lichens). It is whole new world of awesome little plants and ecological relationships! If you are interested, I would highly recommend the annual John Child Bryophyte and Lichen workshop. In the meantime, there are lots of cool vascular species to discover in the Kaimai ranges so let us know if you do any summer epiphyting there!
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I work with NZ's native vascular epiphytes at the University of Waikato. I completed an MSc on epiphyte ecology and the shrub epiphyte Griselinia lucida and have recently published the Field Guide to NZ's Epiphytes, Vines & Mistletoes.