Journal Article

<i>Oeceoclades maculata</i>, an alien tropical orchid in a Caribbean rainforest

Ian M. Cohen and James D. Ackerman

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 3, pages 557-563
Published in print August 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online October 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcn191
Oeceoclades maculata, an alien tropical orchid in a Caribbean rainforest

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  • Ecology and Conservation
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Background and Aims

Undisturbed forest habitat can be relatively impenetrable to invasive, non-native species. Orchids are not commonly regarded as invasive, but some species have become invasive and these generally depend on habitat disturbance. One of the most aggressive orchids is Oeceoclades maculata, a terrestrial species with remarkable ecological amplitude. Originally from tropical Africa, it is now widespread in the neotropics. By associating its local distribution with land-use history and habitat characteristics, it was determined whether O. maculata is dependent on habitat disturbance. It was also investigated whether this exotic orchid occupies the same habitat space as two sympatric native species.

Methods

Six 10 m × 500 m transects were censused in June 2007 on the 16-ha Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot, located in the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico. The plot had been mapped for historical land use, topography and soil type.

Key Results

Oeceoclades maculata was the most abundant of three orchid species surveyed and was found in all four historical cover classes. In cover class 3 (50–80 % forest cover in 1936), 192 of 343 plants were found at a density of 0·48 plants per 5 × 5 m subplot. Over 93 % of the 1200 subplots surveyed were composed of Zarzal or Cristal soil types, and O. maculata was nearly evenly distributed in both. The orchid was most common on relatively flat terrain. The distribution and abundance of two sympatric orchid species were negatively associated with that of the invasive species.

Conclusions

Oeceoclades maculata does penetrate ‘old growth’ forest but is most abundant in areas with moderate levels of past disturbance. Soil type makes little difference, but slope of terrain can be important. The negative association between O. maculata and native species may reflect differences in habitat requirements or a negative interaction perhaps at the mycorrhizal level.

Keywords: Oeceoclades maculata; Wullschlaegelia calcarata; Prescottia stachyodes; Orchidaceae; land-use history; tropical forest disturbance; terrestrial orchids; invasive species; Luquillo Experimental Forest; Puerto Rico; forest recovery; Caribbean

Journal Article.  4941 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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