Asplenium bird's nest ferns in rainforest canopies are climate-contingent refuges for frogs

Scheffers, Brett R., Phillips, Ben L., and Shoo, Luke P. (2014) Asplenium bird's nest ferns in rainforest canopies are climate-contingent refuges for frogs. Global Ecology and Conservation, 2. pp. 37-46.

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Epiphytes are important for canopy dwelling organisms because they provide a cool and moist microhabitat in the relatively hot and dry canopy. Here we examine whether epiphytic Asplenium ferns act as important habitats for arboreal frogs. We conducted extensive fern and habitat surveys for frogs in the Philippines, and complimented these surveys with roaming day and night canopy surveys to identify the full extent of habitat use across the vertical strata. We artificially dried ferns of various sizes to identify relationships between water and temperature buffering. Ferns are the preferred diurnal microhabitat and breeding habitat for arboreal frogs. A strong positive relationship exists between fern size and frog usage and abundance. Our drying experiments show that large ferns buffer maximum temperatures and reduce variability in temperatures, and buffering is directly linked to their hydration. Frogs are likely using large ferns for their moist, cool, environments for breeding and daytime retreat, which supports the buffered microhabitat hypothesis—these plants promote species coexistence through habitat creation and amelioration of physical stress. However, drying experiments suggest that this buffering is contingent on regular rainfall. Altered rainfall regimes could lead to the unexpected loss of the functional capacity of these important fern habitats.

Item ID: 38843
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2351-9894
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Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license ( 3.0/).

Funders: Singapore International Graduate Award, Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund, Australian Government National Environment Research Program, National Environmental Research Program
Projects and Grants: Tropical Ecosystems HUB, Project 3.1—Rainforest Biodiversity
Date Deposited: 13 May 2015 00:51
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