How prevalent is crassulacean acid metabolism among vascular epiphytes?

Oecologia. 2004 Jan;138(2):184-92. doi: 10.1007/s00442-003-1418-x. Epub 2003 Oct 31.


The occurrence of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) in the epiphyte community of a lowland forest of the Atlantic slope of Panama was investigated. I hypothesized that CAM is mostly found in orchids, of which many species are relatively small and/or rare. Thus, the relative proportion of species with CAM should not be a good indicator for the prevalence of this photosynthetic pathway in a community when expressed on an individual or a biomass basis. In 0.4 ha of forest, 103 species of vascular epiphytes with 13,099 individuals were found. As judged from the C isotope ratios and the absence of Kranz anatomy, CAM was detected in 20 species (19.4% of the total), which were members of the families Orchidaceae, Bromeliaceae, and Cactaceae. As predicted, the contribution of CAM epiphytes to the total number of individuals and to total biomass (69.6 kg ha(-1)) was considerably lower (3.6% or 466 individuals and, respectively, 3.0% or 2.1 kg ha(-1)).

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Classification
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Tropical Climate