The Absorption and Evaporation of Water Vapor by Epiphytes in an Old-growth Douglas-fir Forest During the Seasonal Summer Dry Season: Implications for the Canopy Energy Budget

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Our goal was to determine how epiphytic lichens and bryophytes affect canopy latent heat fluxes in an old-growth Douglas-fir forest when the canopy was dry. The epiphyte water content (WCe expressed as a percent of dry weight) of representative epiphytic foliose lichens, fruticose lichens, and bryophytes was measured in the laboratory after 1 to 12 hr of exposure at five different values of vapor pressure deficit (VPD). After 12 hr of exposure, WCe increased fivefold to sixfold as VPD decreased from 1849 to 132 Pa. In addition, we measured WCe in the field using strain gauges. These field measurements were used to calibrate the models described below. Two models were created to estimate the potential latent heat flux from epiphytes at the canopy scale (LEe). The first model combined measured total biomass of epiphytes with a model that estimated the laboratory determined VPD-dependent changes in WCe of the lichens/bryophytes (VPD method). The second model estimated LEe by scaling the change in WCe of epiphyte-laden branches that were continuously monitored in situ in the canopy by a strain gauge (SG method). Both methods showed a strong diurnal trend in LEe when VPD was less than 645 Pa. Prior to sunrise, the epiphytes absorbed water, corresponding to a latent heat flux of 5 to 15 W/m2 per unit ground area, whereas after sunrise, the epiphytes lost water at a rate of −10 to −20 W/m2. For short periods, epiphytes may contribute a significant portion of the latent heat flux from Douglas-fir forests.