Possible combined effects of climate change, deforestation, and harvesting on the epiphyte Catopsis compacta: a multidisciplinary approach



Climate change, habitat loss, and harvesting are potential drivers of species extinction. These factors are unlikely to act on isolation, but their combined effects are poorly understood. We explored these effects in Catopsis compacta, an epiphytic bromeliad commercially harvested in Oaxaca, Mexico. We analyzed local climate change projections, the dynamics of the vegetation patches, the distribution of Catopsis in the patches, together with population genetics and demographic information. A drying and warming climate trend projected by most climate change models may contribute to explain the poor forest regeneration. Catopsis shows a positive mean stochastic population growth. A PVA reveals that quasi-extinction probabilities are not significantly affected by the current levels of harvesting or by a high drop in the frequency of wet years (2%) but increase sharply when harvesting intensity duplicates. Genetic analyses show a high population genetic diversity, and no evidences of population subdivision or a past bottleneck. Colonization mostly takes place on hosts at the edges of the fragments. Over the last 27 years, the vegetation cover has being lost at a 0.028 years−1 rate, but fragment perimeter has increased 0.076 years−1. The increases in fragment perimeter and vegetation openness, likely caused by climate change and logging, appear to increase the habitat of Catopsis, enhance gene flow, and maintain a growing and highly genetically diverse population, in spite of harvesting. Our study evidences conflicting requirements between the epiphytes and their hosts and antagonistic effects of climate change and fragmentation with harvesting on a species that can exploit open spaces in the forest. A full understanding of the consequences of potential threatening factors on species persistence or extinction requires the inspection of the interactions of these factors among each other and their effects on both the focus species and the species on which this species depends.