The purpose ofthis paper is to call attention to the importance ofepiphytes in understanding how global atmospheric changes impact tropical forests. The Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF), like other peaks in the Caribbean, intercepts at least five major global weather systems: (I) trade winds originating in the Azores; (2) tropical depressions and hurricanes originating in western Africa; (3) northern cold fronts originating in the polar regions ofNorth America; and systems originating (4) in the Pacific and (5) the Amazon basin. Each ofthese "global airsheds" has a particular return frequency, associated temperature and climatic conditions, and different chemical conditions in rain and cloud water. Epiphytes are the organisms with the closest interactions with these systems because they absorb water and nutrients directly from the atmosphere and their metabolism responds to prevailing conditions associated with each airshed. In order to detect effects ofglobal change on epiphyte communities, it will be necessary to build a longterm quantitative record of ecological information ofthese organisms. In this paper, we review the information available for the LEF and outline our proposed program to measure ecosystems effects ofglobal change via epiphytic communities. Our focus will be on biomass accumulation, nutrient uptake, and hydrological fluxes.
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