Diversity of vascular epiphytes in lowland rainforests and oil palm plantations in Sumatra, Indonesia

Oil Palm is one of the most rapidly increasing crops and in recent years it has replaced large areas of forest in Southeast Asia. Especially Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the most cost-efficient countries in the world for oil palm agriculture. While the overall impacts of converting forests into oil palm plantation on biodiversity are negative, relatively little research on this subject has been carried out.

Representing about 10% of all plant species (Neider, et al., 2011) epiphytes are extremely important elements of the flora and they are responsible for much of the biotic diversity that makes humid tropical forests the most complex of all the world’s terrestrial ecosystems (Gentry, et al., 1987).

This scientific project will investigate the consequences of transformation from lowland rainforest into oil palm plantations for vascular epiphyte diversity by plot-based species inventories. Therefore the following hypotheses will be determined:
  • The vascular epiphyte diversity in undisturbed natural forests is higher than in oil palm plantation
  • Changes in epiphyte diversity in transformation systems are linked to changes in the microclimatic conditions
  • Important epiphyte groups such as epiphytic orchids cannot establish in oil palm plantations
  • High rates of generalists in oil palm plantations