Presentation Title

Alterations to Throughfall Water and Solute Flux by Tillandsias usneoides L. (Spanish Moss) Cover in a Maritime Live Oak Forest

Document Type


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Abstract or Description

Alterations to forest canopy structures can have a direct effect on hydrological and biogeochemical cycles in forest ecosystems. Epiphytes act as additional canopy biomass intercepting water, effecting pathways under different micrometeorological conditions and alternating nutrient uptake/releases. Most studies on epiphyte cover have focused on non-vascular epiphytes (e.g., lichen and bryophyte mosses), leaving vascular epiphytes like Tillandsia usneoides L. (Spanish moss) relatively understudied. To fill this gap, we characterized alterations to throughfall water and dissolved ion enrichment/flux to soils by T. usneoides in a Quercus Virginiana Mill. (southern live oak) stand on St. Catherine’s Island. Specifically, we compare throughfall generated from heavy T. usneoides coverage, bare canopy, and a continuum of T. usneoides cover percentages (~400 water & 210 chemistry observations over ~40 storms for each canopy cover category). Findings show T.usneoides acts as a significant water storage agent, significantly reducing throughfall. However, under certain meteorological conditions T. usneoides can become saturated and act as a funneling “hotspot.” Tillandsia usneoides coverage enriched throughfall with primarily dry deposited ions (Na ,Cl-, SO42−, Li ), leached greater Mg2 , Ca2 , reduced NO3- and increased NH4 concentrations. Dry deposited ion enrichment is likely a result of the moss’ greater surface roughness. It has been shown that epiphytes prefer to leach Mg2 and Ca2 . Increased NH4 suggests that the saturated T. usneoides mat likely hosts microbial decomposition of leaf, branch, and bark biomass ensnared in the plant itself. K-means cluster analysis on the storms revealed 4 storm types of the differing meteorological conditions (windy/calm, dry/wet [high/low VPD], high/low intensity, intermittent/consistent), and these throughfall dynamics varied between these storm types. Discussion of future research questions regarding how these throughfall variations may impact ecological communities in the litter, soil, or understory vegetation is also provided.


American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (AGU)


San Francisco, CA