The Madeiran laurel forest (Laurisilva) is a subtropical forest with a very rich bryophyte flora and is considered as one of the most important remnants of the evergreen laurel forest from the Tertiary period. The effect of the laurel forest tree species on the epiphytic bryophyte species richness and composition in Madeira Island was studied in 40 sites. A total of 160 trees, belonging to 19 different tree species were assessed in the laurel forest. For subsequent analyses, we focused on seven tree species, for which at least nine individuals were sampled. A total of 137 trees from 40 sites were thus available for statistical analyses. We recorded 110 epiphytic bryophyte taxa (59 species and one variety of mosses and 50 liverworts). Accumulation curves showed clear differences in bryophyte species richness between the different tree species, with typical laurel forest tree species harboring more bryophytes. Tree species also had highly significant effects on species density (mean species richness per 10 × 20 cm plot), with densities higher on the typical laurel forest trees. This was especially true for the liverworts and the endemics for which Clethra arborea, Laurus novocanariensis, Ocotea foetens and Persea indica exhibited higher species density than the two Erica species and Myrica faya. For mosses species density of the tree species tended to be more similar, only O. foetens showed a higher density and M. faya a lower. Endemic bryophytes were lacking on Erica species and almost lacking on M. faya. Concerning species composition, we found significant effects of the tree species sampled. There was a rather clear gradient from the two Erica species to the typical laurel forest tree species such as L. novocanariensis, O. foetens, and P. indica. An analysis of indicator species revealed ten significant indicator species for the typical laurel forest trees, C. arborea, L. novocanariensis, O. foetens and P. indica. Our results reinforced the importance of the laurel forest of Madeira as a hotspot of epiphytic bryophyte diversity whose species distribution is strongly shaped by the nature of the tree species.
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Vol. 114 • No. 1