Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Microclimate determines community composition but not richness of epiphytic understory bryophytes of rainforest and cacao agroforests in Indonesia

S. Goda Sporn A D , Merijn M. Bos B , Monika Hoffstätter-Müncheberg A , Michael Kessler A C and S. Robbert Gradstein A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Institute of Plant Sciences, Department of Systematic Botany, University of Göttingen, Untere Karspüle 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.

B Louis Bolk Institute, Hoofdstraat 24, NL-3972 LA Driebergen, The Netherlands.

C Present address: Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zürich, Switzerland.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 36(2) 171-179
Submitted: 13 July 2008  Accepted: 18 November 2008   Published: 5 February 2009


Management intensification in cultivated, tropical forests drives changes in the microclimate that can threaten native forest flora and fauna. In this study, we use epiphytic bryophytes, known to be sensitive to microclimatic changes due to their lack of a protective cuticle and the exposed habitat, to investigate the predictive power of microclimate for changes in species richness and composition. Bryophytes were sampled from understory trees in natural forest and cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) trees in two types of cacao agroforests (natural shade trees and planted shade trees) in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The microclimate in the agroforests was characterised by low air humidity and high air temperature during the afternoon. Bryophyte species richness did not differ between habitat types but species composition changed markedly from the natural forest to the cacao agroforests. Although no correlation between species richness and microclimate values could be found, a series of matrix-based analyses revealed a significantly positive relationship between similarities in species composition and in maximum values for temperature and minimum values for humidity, which suggests that microclimatic changes are a good predictor for high turnover of bryophyte community composition from natural forests to cacao agroforests.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, conservation, liverworts, mosses, tropical rainforest.


This study was carried in the framework of the German–Indonesian research program ‘Stability of Rainforest Margins in Indonesia’ (STORMA) funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG-SFB 552, grant to SRG). Additional financial support was received from the ‘SYNTHESYS’ project of the European Community. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on a previous version of the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the help from our counterpart Ibu Sri Tjitrosoedirdjo from the Herbarium in Bogor (BIOTROP), STORMA’s partner university in Palu (Universitas Tadulako), Sulawesi, the Ministry of Education in Jakarta (DIKTI), the authorities of Lore Lindu National Park, the cacao farmers in Toro village, and STORMA’s coordinating teams in Germany and Indonesia. Furthermore, we thank Mina, Hardianto and Grischa Brokamp for field assistance, and Nunik Ariyanti, Michael Burghardt, Jörn Hentschel and Bastian Steudel for help with collection sorting and identification.


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