Short-term effects of clear-cutting on the biomass and richness of epiphytic bryophytes in managed subtropical cloud forests
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Managed laurel forests in the Canary Islands have undergone clear-cutting with rotation periods of less than 30 y. Forest owners have recently requested a drastic reduction in the cutting interval. The effects of this new harvesting cycle on organisms like epiphytic bryophytes are not well known. This study investigates how time since last clear-cut, host species and characteristics of tree zones influence the biomass, cover and richness of epiphyte bryophytes in managed laurel forests in La Palma, Canary Islands. Four forest ages (8, 15, 25 and 60 y) and three host tree species (Erica arborea, Laurus novocanariensis and Myrica faya) were studied. Biomass, cover and richness of bryophytes increased through the chronosequence, both at the level of each plot and overall for L. novocanariensis. Most of the biomass (53%) and richness (81%) was concentrated in one of the tree species (L. novocanariensis), in plots for which 60 y had elapsed since the last clear-cutting. Trunks supported greater bryophyte biomass and richness than canopies, even in the oldest plots. Our results suggest that the current rotation periods used to manage laurel forests are insufficiently long to allow for complete reestablishment of epiphytic bryophyte assemblages.