2023 CSDMS meeting-055


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A Simplified Model of the Water Exchanges in Epiphytes in Tropical Montane Cloud Forest Canopies

David Carchipulla-Morales, (he/him/his),Wake Forest University Winston-Salem North Carolina, United States. carcpd21@wfu.edu
Haley Corbett, Wake Forest University Winston North Carolina, United States. corbhe19@wfu.edu
, University of Kentucky Kentucky, United States. sybil.gotsch@uky.edu
, University of California Berkeley California, United States. tdawson@berkeley.edu
Lauren Lowman, Wake Forest University Winston-Salem North Carolina, United States. lowmanle@wfu.edu

Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCFs) are located at the headwaters of biodiversity-rich ecosystems like the Amazon and regulate the release of water downstream. Epiphytes are vascular and non-vascular plants that grow in the canopies of TMCFs and hold large amounts of water, regulating temperature and humidity. In order to investigate how epiphytes control canopy microclimate, we developed an uncalibrated, numerical water balance model where we considered epiphytes as a water tank. Water enters the epiphyte tank via fog, precipitation, and dew deposition, and exits the tank primarily through evapotranspiration. The model also considers the role of host tree aerial roots uptaking water from the epiphyte tank. We validate the model against field data collected from cloud forests in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Preliminary results demonstrate that epiphyte temperatures have a phase lag with air temperature, and this lag is responsible for regulating diurnal conditions within the canopy. Under clear sky conditions, epiphytes increase humidity in the canopy during the afternoon and reduce evapotranspiration at night. This work improves our understanding of the hydrologic cycle of TMCFs and will help us understand how resilient these ecosystems are to climate change.

Photograph of the epiphyte mat in the Tropical Montane
Cloud Forest of Monteverde, Costa RIca.