National Collegiate Honors Council
Palm Epiphyll Cover Shifts to Higher Elevations in Tropical Cloud Forest, Indicating Local Climate Change
Date of this Version
UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity: http://www.nchc-ureca.com/
Intensifying patterns of weather and climate as caused by anthropogenic climate change have already caused extensive species extinctions, migrations, and range contractions in endemic species (Parmesan 2006), and pose the potential to induce substantial biodiversity loss on a global scale (IPCC 2014). Such trends have proven exceptionally apparent in tropical montane forests, where the disappearance of range-restricted species indicates a lifting cloud base as caused by rising sea surface temperature (SST) (Pounds et al.1999). Epiphylls serve as a bioindicator of local climate change due to their heightened sensitivity to water availability (Drake 2005). An altitudinal transect of percent epiphyll cover was performed on Geonoma palms to study how epiphyllous distribution has changed over the last ten years, replicating Drake’s (2005) methods. Decades of increasingly severe local drying caused a significant difference in epiphyll cover and strengthened the negative relationship between altitude and percent epiphyll cover. As climate change increases SSTs and propels moisture up mountains, epiphylls serve as an indication of what to expect in the very near future, where species disappear at lower elevations and follow the lifting cloud bank upwards.
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