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I understand epiphytes are not parasitic. But how exactly are they helping the tree on which they grow?

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It's important to note that not all symbiotic relationships must be expressed in terms of a positive-negative (parasitism) or a positive-positive (mutualism) framework. I would guess that most tree epiphytes exist in a commensal framework with their host trees. That is, the epiphyte has a positive interaction (it gets somewhere to grow), and the host species has neither positive nor negative effects.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't realise symbiotic relationship is superset of mutualism and parasitism! $\endgroup$ – yathish May 20 '18 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @yathish the terminology in the ecological literature gets pretty malleable, but the Greek root basically means "living together" so can describe a range of relationships. $\endgroup$ – NatWH May 20 '18 at 16:06

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