Epiphyte is a unique component of forest diversity vulnerable to changing environments. Characterizing variations in functional traits of epiphytes across dry and wet seasons can enhance our understanding their strategies to environments. We measured and assessed variations of 14 leaf functional traits responding to water conditions for epiphytic pteridophytes (EP) and epiphytic angiosperms (EA) across dry and wet seasons in a tropical cloud forest. Results showed that leaf dry weight (LDW) and stomatal length (SL) of EP were significantly higher than EA, while leaf water content (LWC) of EA was significantly higher than EP. The SL, stomatal density (SD), upper epidermis thickness (UET), lower epidermis thickness (LET), palisade tissue thickness (PT), spongy tissue thickness (ST), and leaf thickness (LT) of EP and EA were significantly higher in wet season than dry season. The variance of stomatal and anatomical traits explained by season types (0.24–0.78) was higher than plant groups (0.0–0.25), while the variance of LDW and LWC explained by plant groups (0.12–0.40) was higher than season types (0.0–0.29). Principal component analysis and correlation analyses showed that SL, stomatal index, UET, ST, LET, and LT were the key traits reflecting epiphyte adaptation to dry season, as well as that LWC and leaf density were the key traits in wet season. Our results suggest that the different taxonomic groups exhibit divergent strategies responding to water differences. Great variations in leaf traits to dry seasons are predicted that vascular epiphytes, especially pteridophytes, are prone to disappear with drought events.
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Vol. 13 • No. 1