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I read in an ecology text book ("Ecology: Concepts and Applications" (7th edition) by Manuel Molles) that trees in tropical forests can be sustained despite the poor soil is because they extract nutrients from epiphyte mats. Trees send roots from trunks and branches to get nutrients from epiphyte mats that are located high up in the canopy. I would like to visualize these roots. Are there any pictures available (conveniently in the Internet) showing these roots?

Or are these roots usually located beneath epiphyte mats (e.g., very short) and cannot be seen unless we remove epiphyte mats?

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    $\begingroup$ Good question +1. In general it is good to link the book and cite it directly rather than reporting indirectly what they said. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Aug 12 '16 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ The textbook is "Ecology: Concepts and Applications" (7th edition) by Manuel Molles (ISBN-10: 0077837282) (ISBN-13: 978-0077837280). $\endgroup$ – quibble Aug 13 '16 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ What other specific-informations are given about them? any scientific name/ genus/ family? any geographic location? any particular forest? $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Oct 12 '16 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ The book says this finding was made by Dr. Nalini Nadlarni. If I were to look at Nadlarni’s publications, there should be some information. If I cut-and-paste a paragraph from the book, “Nadlarni’s research showed that in both temperate and tropical rain forests, trees access these nutrient stores by sending out roots from their trunks and branches high above the ground. These roots grow into the epiphyte mats and extract nutrients from them. As a consequence of this research, we now know that to understand the nutrient economy of rainforests the ecologist must venture into treetops.” $\endgroup$ – quibble Oct 14 '16 at 3:50
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Adventitious roots into epiphyte mats aren't all that uncommon, and aren't restricted to the tropics. They can occur in old growth forests in the pacific northwest (my neck of the woods). A well-developed bryophyte mat in a single upper canopy tree can store up to six metric tons of water, plus all the mineral nutrients from atmospheric deposition. For the tree, it's a huge advantage to be able to tap into that epiphyte mat rather than rely on bringing up water from their subterranean roots. As far as visualizing it goes, yes, you would have to remove the mat to see them, but they look very similar to subterranean roots. Not sure if this is helpful, but I like to think of it like this: when a new meristem is formed, it's basically undifferentiated, and if there's sufficient water and mineral nutrition it can develop into a root (or a shoot if it's getting sunlight). The tree doesn't care if that's below ground or in the canopy.

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    $\begingroup$ Any examples could you provide? $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Oct 21 '16 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ Examples of trees that do this: bigleaf maple (Acer macrophylla), red alder (Alnus rubra) in the PNW, and a wide variety in the tropics: Metrosideros collina, Cheirodendron trigynum, Ocotea spp, Xylosma spp, etc, etc. See Nadkarni's work for a more thorough treatment. $\endgroup$ – BryoGuyo Oct 21 '16 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ So you should include them in your answer; and if possible, some verifiable source. That's the OP(original post) looking for. (to write in italics, give 1 star mark at start and 1 star mark at end of italic phrase). Thanks for your Great effort. $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Oct 21 '16 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology SE. You could visit the tour-page for basic informations, the help-page, and for formatting tasks in command prompt, visit this help sub-page Thanks :) $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Oct 21 '16 at 5:37
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I never heard of it. Tropical forest soils may be poor, but the litter over the soil is where most nutrients are recycled and become available to trees. That's why without forest = without litter = without fertility = desert. At least in the Amazon.

Some researchers who studied the Amazonian soils are Harald Sioli and Philip Fearnside. You may find some of their old studies available on-line. If they ask some payment, try sci-hub.cc.

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