Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (5): 508-522.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0424

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Advances in ecological studies of epiphytes using canopy cranes

Yi WU1,2, Wen-Yao LIU1, Liang SONG1,*, Xi CHEN1,2, Hua-Zheng LU1,2, Su LI1, Xian-Meng SHI1,2   

  1. 1Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China

    2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Online:2016-05-10 Published:2016-05-25
  • Contact: Liang SONG


Forest canopies are one of the most species-rich habitats, but among the least explored in the biosphere. They play a crucial role in the process of material and energy exchange between the forest and atmosphere. Individual ecosystem members (e.g., epiphytes) and the ecological function of canopies have been given insufficient attention because of inaccessibility. Canopy cranes have been successfully used to guarantee non-destructive and reiterated sampling of epiphytes, thus offering a top-down perspective of the entire canopy. These cranes have become the symbol of canopy research and enable epiphyte research. Globally, western developed countries have conducted many studies of diversity and spatial distributions of epiphytes using canopy cranes, thus accumulating an abundance of valuable results. This review summarizes the structure, development history, and distribution of canopy cranes as well as general information about international canopy research organizations. Ecological studies of epiphytes performed around the world using these canopy cranes are also reviewed. Additionally, the development of canopy ecology and the construction of canopy cranes in China are introduced briefly. In analyzing current research trends in ecological studies of epiphytes in China and globally, the following aspects were considered: biodiversity, spatial patterns and maintenance mechanisms, ecological adaptations of epiphytes, their relationship with canopy animals, and their responses to climate change.

Key words: canopy crane, epiphytes, biodiversity, spatial distribution pattern, ecological adaptation, climate change