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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Absorption of ant-provided carbon dioxide and nitrogen by a tropical epiphyte

  • Author(s): Treseder, Kathleen K
  • Davidson, Diane W
  • Ehleringer, James R
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

ALTHOUGH ant-plant mutualisms have been described in many ecosystems, the magnitude of the direct benefits from such relationships are hard to quantify. In Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia, stunted ‘kerangas’ forests occur on nutrient-poor sandstone hills1-3. As trees are widely spaced and have a sparse leaf area, a significant amount of light reaches the tree trunks and enables a diverse community of epiphytes to thrive there4. One of these epiphytes, Dischidia major (Vahl) Merr. (Asclepiadaceae), has evolved unusual methods for enhancing carbon and nitrogen acquisition. We show here that a mutualistic relationship exists between ants of the genus Philidris and their host, D. major. Using stable isotope analysis, we calculate that 39% of the carbon in occupied host plant leaves is derived from ant-related respiration, and that 29% of the host nitrogen is derived from debris deposited into the leaf cavities by ants. © 1995 Nature Publishing Groups. All Rights Reserved.

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