Aims: Facilitation among plant species occurs when the presence of one species, the so-called nurse, alters the environment in a way that enhances the growth, survival or reproduction of a second species. This positive association could be specie-specific and can have direct top-down (canopy) or bottom-up (soil) effects as well as indirect effects like higher tolerance against herbivory. The main objective of our study was to determine the positive interaction between the endemic Chilean orchid Bipinnula fimbriata and the nurse shrub Baccharis macraei in the Mediterranean ecosystem of Chile. Methods: To assess the direct and indirect effects of the nurse, we conducted field and greenhouse experiments, respectively. In the field, we performed manipulative experiments assessing the nurse canopy and soil direct effects on the orchid. We measured microclimatic and edaphic variables within and outside nurses, and assessed survival, growth and photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) of the orchids. In the greenhouse, we performed experiments assessing the indirect effect of tolerance to simulated herbivory in orchids under nurse and open spaces conditions. We measured survival, flowering percentage, Fv/Fm, total biomass and jasmonic acid of the orchids. Important Findings: We found more soil moisture and nutrients under the nurses, and higher photosynthetically active radiation, soil and air temperature in open spaces. Survival, growth and Fv/Fm were significantly higher in plants under the nurses, showing the top-down effect more importance than the bottom-up effect. In the greenhouse experiment, we found higher survival, Fv/Fm, flowering and biomass in orchids under the nurse treatment, independently of the imposed herbivory. Jasmonic acid was significantly higher in those individuals with herbivory and open spaces condition. We conclude that B. macraei acts as a nurse improving microclimatic and edaphic conditions that result in an increased survival, growth, physiological status and tolerance against herbivory for B. fimbriata present in the Mediterranean Chilean region.
- orchid restauration