Epiphytes generally occupy arboreal perches, which are inherently unstable environments due to periodic windstorms, branch falls, and treefalls. During high wind events, arboreal bromeliads are often knocked from the canopy and deposited on the forest floor. In this study, we used a common epiphytic tank bromeliad, Guzmania berteroniana (R. & S.) Mez, to determine if fallen bromeliads can survive, grow, and reproduce on the forest floor and evaluate the potential impact of adult dispersal on plant and soil nutrient pools. Bromeliads were transplanted to and from tree stems and the forest floor and monitored intensively for six months; survival, growth, and impacts on ecosystem nutrient pools were followed on a subset of plants for 16 months. Six months after transplanting, bromeliad mortality was low (3%), and 19 percent of study individuals had flowered and produced new juvenile shoots. Mortality on the subset of plants followed for 16 months was 14–30 percent. Although survival rates were relatively high in all habitats, bromeliads transplanted to trees grew significantly more root length (x̄ ± SE: 189 ± 43 cm) than those moved to the forest floor (53 ± 15 cm) and experienced lower rates of leaf area loss. All transplanted bromeliads rapidly altered the substrate they occupied. Individuals transplanted to and among trees rapidly decreased base cation concentrations but significantly increased P concentrations of their underlying substrate. On the ground, bromeliads increased C, N, and P concentrations within nine months of placement. Our results suggest that in this montane tropical forest, bromeliads respond rapidly to displacement, locally modify their substrates, and can access the resources needed for survival regardless of habitat.
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Vol. 34 • No. 2