Epiphyte Ecology  

Epiphyte Ecology
Monitoring Change
Species Discovery

Dr Brian Coppins
Ms Sally Eaton
Dr Christopher Ellis
Ms Louise Olley
Dr Rebecca Yahr

Research Projects




Epiphytes grow harmlessly on other plants, typically trees. They include orchids, bromeliads and ferns, which are celebrated in the diversity of tropical and sub-tropical forests (Figure 1).

Equally impressive, but perhaps less well known, are the lichens, mosses and liverworts, which become the dominant epiphytes in Europe's temperate and boreal forests (Figure 2).

These 'cryptogamic' plants and fungi lend international significance to UK conservation, and contribute to diverse and healthy ecosystems. Among their ecosystem service roles:

(i) they are indicators of environmental quality, e.g. as air pollution bioindicators,

(ii) they contribute to forest water and nutrient cycling,

(iii) they provide a microhabitat for bark-dwelling invertebrates, with implications across the forest food-web.

RBGE Research

RBGE's epiphyte research aims to understand the impacts of environmental change on diversity (e.g. climate change, habitat loss), showing how to protect epiphytes now and in the future through the best designed habitat management.

Our work seeks to navigate between a legacy of human impact creating present-day 'baseline' conditions, towards species protection long into the future. These themes can be explored below by following embedded links in the flow chart:

Figure 1. The tropical epiphytic fern, Platycerium coronarium (Dr D. Middleton).
Figure 2. A community of Scotland's globally significant 'cool temperate rainforest' epiphytic lichens; including Degelia, Lobaria & Pseudocyphellaria spp. (Ms Sandy Coppins)