Ecophysiology of tropical forests

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

The tropical belt. Occurrence of the tropical forests. Lowland and mountain forests. Forest management, forest destruction. Methods in canopy research.

2. Climate and vegetation. Vegetation models. Microclimate. Precipitation. Light. Wind. Temperature. Humidity. Gas composition. Global vegetation models.

3. Structure of the tropical forests. Horizontal structure. Diversity and stress. Succession. Gap formation. Vertical structure. Discription of the structure: methods - units.

4. Plant types and growth forms in the tropical forests.

5. Trees in the tropical forests. Roots. Trunk. Foliage. Architectural models of trees. Reiteration. Minimal unit. Morphodiversity. Roots of the reiterated units.

6. Water uptake and transport. Water uptake in tropical trees. Water transport in trees. Pressure gradient in the xylem. Validity of the cohesion theory in lianas and emergent trees. Water uptake in the mangrove. Soil desiccation, effect of forest destruction.

7. Mineral cycles. Role of the epiphytes. Nutrient pools. Division of the epiphyte biomass. Deposition of nutrient elements: atmospheric, litter, N-fixation in the canopy, antropogenic effects. Release of nutrients: litter, epiphyte death, epiphyte biomass decomposition, leaching, gaseous loss. Nutrient fluxes in the canopy. Adventitious roots in the canopy. Epiphytes as the keystone resources of the nutrient cycles.

8. Higher plants as epiphytes. Occurrence. Evolution. Adaptation. Classification. Environmental factors. Host specificity. Sucession. Groth forms. Effect on the host trees. Effect on the ecosystem.

9. Hemiepiphytes. Mythological, cultural aspects. Distribution and origin. Evolution. Physiological and morphological adaptation: photosynthesis, nutrients, water. Roots of attechment and travel. Phyisiological changes during root development. Life cycle: seed dispersal, germination, vegetative fusion. Host specificity. Effect on the host.

10. The mangrove. The role of the salt. Special adaptations. Roots. Coping with salt stress: salt exclusion, salt uptake. Salt excretion. Gas exchange.

11. Light and photosythesis in the tropical forests. Light as signal. Regulation of the germination. Regulation of growth. Sun plants - shade plants. Pigmentation and N content.

12. „From the savannas to the cloud forests in East Africa” (savanna, semi-desert, lowland rain forest, dry mountain forest, loud forest, bamboo forest, afroalpine vegetation types)

13. „Forests in South East Asia”. Floristic composition and physiological adaptations from the Equator to the Capricorn. Effect of developing seasonality. (lowland rainforest, mountain rainforest, monsoon forest, mangrove)

14. „Tropics in the New World” Composition, structure, past, present and future of the Central and South American tropical rainforests. (lowland rainforest, mountain rainforest, cloud forests, disturbed, secondary forests)

15. „New Zealand – Museum of the Earth” (vegetation and ecphysiology of the temperate rain forests)

  • U. Lüttge: Physiological Ecology of Tropical Plants. Springer. 1997. ISBN 3-540-61161-4

  • P.W. Richards: The Tropical Rain Forest. Cambridge University Press.1996. ISBN 0 521 421942