SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.32 issue4Survival and development of reintroduced Cattleya intermedia plants related to abiotic factors and herbivory at the edge and in the interior of a forest fragment in South BrazilTogether yet separate: variation in soil chemistry determines differences in the arboreal-shrub structure of two contiguous rupestrian environments author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links


Acta Botanica Brasilica

Print version ISSN 0102-3306On-line version ISSN 1677-941X

Acta Bot. Bras. vol.32 no.4 Belo Horizonte Oct./Dec. 2018  Epub June 04, 2018 


Unraveling algae and cyanobacteria biodiversity in bromeliad phytotelmata in different vegetation formations in Bahia State, Northeastern Brazil

Geraldo José Peixoto Ramos1  *

Lucineide Maria Santana2

Anderson Matos Medina3

Carlos Eduardo de Mattos Bicudo2

Luis Henrique Zanini Branco4

Carlos Wallace do Nascimento Moura1

1 Laboratório de Ficologia, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Botânica, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, 44036-900, Feira de Santana, BA, Brazil

2 Núcleo de Pesquisa em Ecologia, Instituto de Botânica, 04301-902, São Paulo, SP, Brazil

3 Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Evolução, Universidade Federal de Goiás, 74690-900, Goiânia, GO, Brazil

4 Departamento de Zoologia e Botânica, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Estadual Paulista, 15054-000, São José do Rio Preto, SP, Brazil


Knowledge of algal and cyanobacterial diversity of phytotelmata remains poorly-known, especially for bromeliads from different vegetation formations. We investigated the microalgae communities of four species of tank bromeliads from different vegetation formations in Bahia State, Northeast Brazil, highlighting the composition, richness and diversity of taxa. Sampling of water stored in bromeliads was carried out quarterly between 2014 and 2016, and abiotic variables and morphometric attributes of bromeliads were measured. A total of 89 taxa of algae and cyanobacteria were recorded for the four bromeliad species studied. The microalgae communities of the phytotelmata varied among vegetation formations, with one tank bromeliad, Alcantarea nahoumii, with more complex architecture (higher number of leaves and thus more cavities), being distinguished by its high species richness (73 taxa). The bromeliads exhibited little similarity in species composition, with only one species (Phacus polytrophos) occurring in all four species. Throughout the entire sampling period, classes with higher species richness, especially due to A. nahoumii, were Zygnematophyceae, Cyanophyceae and Chlorophyceae, which accounted for about 80 % of all species inventoried. Our results contribute to the knowledge of microalga communities of bromeliad phytotelmata in Brazil with regard to species richness and composition, as well as significant environmental characteristics.

Keywords: diversity; ecology; microalgae; microhabitat; phytotelm; richness; tank bromeliads


The term phytotelm (φυτόν, phyton = plant; τέλμα, telm = pool) refers to the small amounts of water that accumulate in plant structures, such as leaves, flowers, or tree trunk and maintain an associated biota (Varga 1928; Maguire 1971). Phytotelmata occur in almost all regions of the world, although they are most common and most diversified in the tropical region, mainly due to the high rainfall there and the large numbers of plants capable of accumulating water (Fish 1983).

Little is currently known about the diversity, distribution patterns, and compositions of phytotelmata microalgae communities. Among the few published studies are those of Gebühr et al. (2006) with allochthonous populations of Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae) in Germany, and Hernández-Rodríguez et al. (2014) with Tillandsia multicaulis (Bromeliaceae) in Mexico. Studies of phytotelmata algae began in Brazil in the 1970s, but have only recently become more frequent, especially in Bahia State, where several taxa have been recorded for the first time for that country, including a number of species new to science (Ramos et al. 2017a; b; c; d; 2018a; b).

Most phytotelmata algal studies have taken floristic approaches (morphospecies), usually addressing specific groups (Lyra 1971; Sophia 1999; Ramos et al. 2011), or ecological approaches (Brouard et al. 2011; Carrias et al. 2014), although they have often been published without reliable taxonomic support at the species level. Studies comparing microalgae communities from bromeliad phytotelmata found in different vegetation formations, however, have not yet been undertaken.

The principal environmental variables that regulate which algal groups will dominate in the bromeliad tanks are: light intensity (Laessle 1961; Sophia et al. 2004; Brouard et al. 2011), plant size (Marino et al. 2011) and plant architecture (Carrias et al. 2014), rainfall (Pires et al. 2017), and certain limnological characteristics (Sophia et al. 2004; Gebühr et al. 2006; Marino et al. 2011; Killick et al. 2014).

We investigated the algae and cyanobacteria communities present in four species of tank bromeliads in different vegetation formations in northeastern Brazil, emphasizing the composition, richness, and diversity of the species in those environments in order to: (1) evaluate the influence of morphometric attributes of the bromeliad tanks and the abiotic variables of the water retained in them on the richness of the algal and cyanobacterial communities; and, (2) determine the species richness and similarities of the algal and cyanobacterial communities in four tank-bromeliad species.

Materials and methods

Study sites and the bromeliads sampled

The present study was conducted in four areas with different vegetation formations in Bahia State in northeastern Brazil (Fig. 1A): (1) Fazenda Itaberaba (12°30’S, 40°04’W), in the municipality of Itaberaba, an area of caatinga (dryland) vegetation with bromeliads (Aechmea cf. lingulatoides Leme & H.E.Luther) growing on arid soils and fully exposed to the sun light; (2) Serra da Jiboia (12°51’S, 39°28’W), in the municipality of Santa Teresinha, an area of granitic rock outcrops, with bromeliads [Alcantarea nahoumii (Leme) J.R.Grant] growing at 850 m a.s.l. and fully exposed to sun light; (3) Parque das Dunas (12°55’S, 38°19’W), in the municipality of Salvador, a restinga (sandy shoreline) area with bromeliads (Hohenbergia littoralis L.B.Sm.) growing on sand dunes 600 m from ocean and fully exposed to sun light; and (4) Reserva Sapiranga (12°33’S, 38°02’W), in the municipality of Mata de São João, an area of Atlantic Forest with bromeliads (Hohenbergia stellata Schult. & Schult.f.) growing mainly in shaded forest sites (Fig. 1). Some climatic data, such as the rainfall in each study area (municipality), were obtained from the National Institute of Meteorology (INMET 2018); air temperatures were obtained using portable probes during collections. Those data are presented in Table 1.

Figure 1  Map of study area, showing the four municipalities in Bahia State, Brazil (A) and the bromeliads studied: Aechmea cf. lingulatoides (B) , Alcantarea nahoumii (C), Hohenbergia littoralis (D), Hohenbergia stellata (E). Please see the PDF version for color reference. 

Table 1 Rainfall data of the four study areas (by municipality; INMET 2018) between December/2014 and February/2016 and air temperature during the samplings. Values are represented by mean. 

Climatic conditions
Itaberaba Santa Teresinha Mata de São João Salvador
Period Rainfall (mm) Air temperature (ºC) Rainfall (mm) Air temperature (ºC) Rainfall (mm) Air temperature (ºC) Rainfall (mm) Air temperature (ºC)
Dec/14 214.48 - 151.06 - 146.38* 28.12* 149.04 -
Jan/15 7.08* 31.29* 151.04* 28.66* 146.24 - 149.03* 30.89*
Feb/15 88.52 - 150.78 - 145.88 - 148.72 -
Mar/15 30.4 - 150.61 - 145.25 - 148.23 -
Apr/15 79.38 - 150 - 143.91 - 147 -
May15 49.26* 28.37* 139.38 - 143.92* 26.23* 147.29* 29.88*
Jun/15 48.21 - 138.58 - 143.85 - 149.19 -
Jul/15 56.44 - 128.64* 23.39* 137.07 - 152.22 -
Aug/15 35.44* 26.76* 129.37 - 140.74* 25.59* 159.58 -
Sep/15 4.16 - 132.4* 26.28* 151.35 - 174.85* 27.28*
Oct/15 19.62 - 135.62 - 151.11 - 177.17 -
Nov/15 47.19 - 132.37* 25.14* 142.9 - 168.45 -
Dec/15 3.98 - 129.19 - 133.18 - 160.43 -
Jan/16 407.67* 26.82* 126.14 - 132.92 - 151.62* 29.13*
Feb/16 41.79 - 125.33 - 132.74* 28.67* 150.91 -

*Sampling periods


Study material was gathered from the water retained in the cavities (tanks) formed by the leaves of the bromeliads (four species, Figs. 1B-E) in the four different vegetation formations. The accumulated water was collected using a plastic hose coupled to a 50 ml syringe. To ensure greater efficiency in collecting all biological material, that procedure was repeated several times in each tank. The water in some bromeliads was available in two kinds of phytotelmata (central and lateral), but the same collection procedures were used in both situations. Water from distinct tanks (if present), but from the same bromeliad specimen, were mixed so that each bromeliad represented a single sampling unit.

Quarterly excursions were carried out in the four study areas during 14 months, between 2014 and 2016, totaling 320 sampling units (80 bromeliads from each study area). Water from 20 tank-bromeliads were collected during each sampling period; the bromeliads sampled were randomly chosen based on the throw of a die (1 = North; 2 = East; 3 = West; 4 = South; 5 and 6 =, irrelevant), indicating the direction to follow to the next bromeliad. The distance between a sampled bromeliad and the next was always at least 5 m.

The collected material was held in properly labeled plastic containers (50 ml) and transported in a portable cooler to the Phycology Laboratory (UEFS); all collected materials were subsequently fixed in Transeau solution (Bicudo & Menezes 2017).

Environmental variables

Abiotic information concerning the tank water, such as temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, and total dissolved solids (TDS) was measured using a Hanna multiparameter probe; dissolved oxygen was measured using a portable digital Instrutherm (MO-910). All limnological variables were measured immediately after harvesting the bromeliad tank water samples. The morphometric characteristics of the bromeliads, such as height, width, and numbers of leaves were also recorded.

Identification of the microalgae and the attributes analyzed

All of the microalgae material was examined under an Olympus LX35 Optical Microscope. Taxonomic identifications were carried out to the infrageneric level whenever possible, and were mainly based on the morphological and metric characteristics of the population, consulting the specialized literature (Huber-Pestalozzi 1955; Prescott et al. 1975; Komárek & Fott 1983; Komárek & Anagnostidis 1998; 2005; John et al. 2011; Wołowski 2011; Komárek 2013; Carty 2014).

Taxonomic richness was calculated based on the total number of species sampled in each bromeliad tank (Brower et al. 1998). The frequency of occurrence of each algae species (in each bromeliad species) was calculated considering the number of samples in which the taxa occurred in relation to the total number of samples collected. Categories of frequency followed Matteucci & Colma (1982): > 70 % (quite frequent, VF); ≤ 70 % and > 40 % (frequent, F); ≤ 40 % and > 10 % (occasional, O); and ≤ 10 % (rare, R).

Microalgae community

Algae and cyanobacteria were classified according to their size class (nanoplankton: 2-20 µm, microplankton: > 20-200 µm, mesoplankton: > 200 µm-2 mm) (Reynolds 2006); and life form: unicellular flagellate (UF), colonial flagellate (CF), unicellular non-flagellated (UNF), colonial non-flagellated (including coenobia) (CNF), and filaments (Fil) (Crossetti & Bicudo 2008).

Statistical analyses

One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to detect differences in the morphological characteristics of the bromeliads, the abiotic variables of water, and microalgae richness (dependent variables), among the different bromeliad species (independent factor). We also tested for pairwise differences, employing the Tukey post-hoc test using the multcomp package (Hothorn et al. 2008). For this analysis, the data were log10 (x + 1) transformed to fit the assumptions of normality and homoscedasticity.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was performed using a variance-covariance matrix; the data was transformed by Z-score to reduce the dimensionality of the morphological and abiotic water parameters of the different bromeliads tanks sampled. All analysis were performed in R environment (R Core Team 2017).The similarities of the algal and cyanobacterial compositions between the four bromeliad species studied were determined by using the Sørensen similarity index (Muller-Dombois, 1981): 2c/2c + A + B × 100, where A and B represent the number of species in areas A and B; and c corresponds to the number of species held in common in both areas.

A Venn diagram was prepared to illustrate the distribution of algal and cyanobacterial species richness among the different bromeliads, using software available at the Bioinformatics & Evolutionary Genomics (2017) site.


Morphological attributes of the bromeliads, limnological conditions, and microalgae richness

In terms of the characteristics of the bromeliads sampled, Hohenbergia stellata had high mean diameter and height values while Hohenbergia littoralis had low mean values for those parameters; the other two bromeliad species showed similar measures of those same morphological characteristics. Significant differences were found in the mean numbers of leaves among the bromeliad species, especially between Alcantarea nahoumii (37.8 leaves) and H. littoralis (14.9 leaves) (Tab. 2). The waters in the bromeliad tanks of the four species were predominantly acidic, but with other significant differences between them. Aechmea cf. lingulatoides and A. nahoumii showed high mean electrical conductivities, and their total dissolved solids were two to three times greater than those observed in H. littoralis and H. stellata. The greatest mean dissolved oxygen concentration was found in A. nahoumii (7.8 mg L-1), followed by H. littoralis (6.8 mg L-1). That parameter displayed considerable variation among the different bromeliad species.

Table 2 Mean and standard deviation values (n = 80) of the morphological characteristics, abiotic water conditions, and algae richness sampled in four different bromeliads species (Superscript letter represents the Tukey test results: different letters indicate significant differences, p < 0.05). 

Variables Aechmea cf. lingulatoides Alcantarea nahoumii Hohenbergia littoralis Hohenbergia stellata ANOVA F P
Morphological characteristics Diameter (cm) 77.6 b (± 18.8) 79.3 b (± 18.1) 41.5 c (± 11.9) 115.1 a (± 33.2) 200.7 <0.001
Height (cm) 69.6 b (± 11.6) 65.9 b (± 13.4) 58.2 c (± 12.6) 86.7 a (± 24.4) 34.2 <0.001
Leaves number 23.2 b (± 6.6) 37.8 a (± 10.6) 14.9 c (± 3.5) 22.5 b (± 5.6) 169.1 <0.001
Abiotic water conditions T (°C) 28.3 b (± 3.2) 27.1 c (± 3.0) 30.3 a (± 2.2) 26.1 c (± 1.8) 35.1 <0.001
pH 5.0 c (± 1.1) 5.9 a (± 0.6) 4.4 d (± 0.6) 5.2 b (± 0.7) 56.5 <0.001
EC (mS cm-1) 0.21 a (± 0.35) 0.23 a (± 0.17) 0.07 b (± 0.09) 0.09 b (± 0.09) 18.4 <0.001
TDS (ppt) 0.11 a (± 0.18) 0.12 a (± 0.10) 0.05 b (± 0.11) 0.04 b (± 0.04) 13.8 <0.001
DO (mg L-1) 5.1 c (± 2.4) 7.8 a (± 3.7) 6.8 b (± 3.9) 4.2 d (± 1.3) 29.3 <0.001
Algae community Richness per individual bromeliad 1.1 b (± 0.7) 15.9 a (± 5.5) 1.3 b (±0.8) 0.2 c (± 0.5) 949.5 <0.001

The bromeliads studied here were organized according to their morphological characteristics and abiotic water variables in the PCA, with the first two axes explaining 55.8 % of the data variability (eigenvalues: axis 1 = 2.35, axis 2 = 2.03, permutation test = 0.009). Most individuals of H. stellata were grouped on the negative side of axis 1, and were mainly correlated with higher plant diameter (r = -0.76) and height (r = -0.61) values; most individuals of A. nahoumii were also grouped there, correlated to pH (r = -0.65) and numbers of leaves (r = -0.58). Individuals of H. littoralis were grouped on the positive side of axis 1, correlated with high water temperature (r = 0.52). Most individuals of A. nahoumii and some of A. cf. lingulatoides (mainly the ones sampled in Jan/2015) were grouped on the negative side of axis 2, and were correlated with the highest TDS (r = -0.82) and conductivity values (r = -0.81) (Fig. 2).

Figure 2  Principal component analysis based on morphological characteristics and abiotic water variables of four bromeliad species (Diam: Diameter, Heig: Height, Leav: number of leaves, T: water temperature, pH, EC: electrical conductivity, TDS: total dissolved solids, DO: dissolved oxygen).  

The phytotelmata algae and cyanobacteria communities were represented by a total of 89 taxa in the four bromeliads species studied, distributed among 54 genera and nine classes: Zygnematophyceae (27 % of the species), Cyanobacteria (24 %), Chlorophyceae (21 %), Euglenophyceae (12 %), Trebouxiophyceae (7 %), Bacillariophyceae (4 %), Chrysophyceae (2 %), Dinophyceae (1 %), and Klebsormidiophyceae (1 %). Of the 320 bromeliad specimens studied, 240 individuals contained representatives of microalgae and/or cyanobacteria; all of the samples collected from Alcantarea nahoumii (80 bromeliad tanks) had microalgae; H. stellata had the lowest number of algal and cyanobacterial species, and they occurred in only 13 of the 80 bromeliads sampled.

The taxonomic richness of microalgae and cyanobacteria was highest in Alcantarea nahoumii (Serra da Jiboia - rock outcrops) with 73 taxa, followed by Hohenbergia littoralis (Parque das Dunas - restinga) (nine), Aechmea cf. lingulatoides (Fazenda Itaberaba - caatinga) (seven), and Hohenbergia stellata (Reserva Sapiranga - Atlantic Forest) (six). In terms of the species richness in the different bromeliads in the four vegetation formations studied, those on the rock outcrops containing 69 exclusive taxa, followed by restinga and caatinga vegetation (six each) and Atlantic Forest (four) (Fig. 3). Only one species, Phacus polytrophos Pochmann, occurred in all four bromeliad species studied. The most representative genus was Cosmarium (nine taxa), and it was the only desmid occurring in more than one bromeliad species.

Figure 3  Venn diagram showing the numbers of microalgae taxa found in the phytotelmata of different bromeliad species in four vegetal formations in Bahia, Brazil.  

The mean species richness per individual bromeliad was significantly higher (> 12 times) in Alcantarea nahoumii (mean: 15.9) than in the other three bromeliads (mean: 1.3-0.2 species/ind.). Individual specimens of H. stellata contain the lowest mean number of species (0.2) (Tab. 2).

In terms of the entire sampling period, the microalgae classes with the highest species richness in A. nahoumii were Zygnematophyceae, Cyanophyceae, and Chlorophyceae, which contributed approximately 80 % of the total number of species inventoried. Among the bromeliads species with the lowest richness, A. cf. lingulatoides contained mainly by diatoms, whereas the most representative class in H. littoralis was Euglenophyceae (Fig. 4).

Figure 4  Relative species richness of the taxonomic classes of the microalgae communities in four bromeliad species. 

Only four microalgae species (4 % of the total were considered very frequent: Enallax costatus, Parvodinium umbonatum, and Pleurotaenium trabecula, which were found in the bromeliad A. nahoumii; Oedogonium pulchrum was identified in the bromeliad H. littoralis). Most of microalgae species where considered rare (46 %), followed by occasional (35 %), and frequent (15 %). In terms of life forms, the microalgae community was dominated by unicellular non-flagellated taxa (45 %); the most common size class of organisms was microplankton (75 %) (Tab. 3).

Table 3 List of microalgae taxa and their classification by size class, life form, and frequency of occurrence in each bromeliad species. Size class: nano (nanoplankton), micro (microplankton), meso (mesoplankton). Life form: UF (unicellular flagellate), CF (colonial flagellate), UNF (unicellular non-flagellated), CNF (colonial non-flagellated, including coenobia), Fil (filaments). Areas: SB (Serra da Jiboia), PD (Parque das Dunas), Sap (Reserva Sapiranga), Ita (Itaberaba). Bromeliad species: A. nah (Alcantarea nahoumii), H. lit (Hohenbergia littoralis), H.ste (Hohenbergia stellata), A. ling (Aechmea cf. lingutaloides). 

Taxa Size class Life form SB PD Sap Ita
A. nah H. litt H. ste A. ling
Frequency (%)
Gomphonema gracile Ehrenberg micro UNF 1
Pinnularia gibba Ehrenberg micro UNF 3
P. latarea Krammer micro UNF 1
Staurosirella leptostauron var. dubia (Grunow) M.B.Edlund micro UNF 1
Ankistrodesmus falcatus (Corda) Ralfs micro CNF 1
A. fusiformis Corda micro CNF 20
Asterococcus superbus (Cienkowski) Scherffel nano CNF 4
Coelastrum indicum W.B.Turner micro CNF 43
Crucigenia quadrata Morren nano CNF 1
Enallax costatus (Schmidle) Pascher micro CNF 70
Gongrosira papuasica (Borzì) Tupa micro Fil 4
Monoraphidium caribeum Hindák micro UNF 6
M. contortum (Thuret) Komárková-Legnerová nano UNF 3
M. griffithii (Berkeley) Komárková-Legnerová micro UNF 31
M. komarkovae Nygaard micro UNF 5
M. subclavatum Nygaard nano UNF 3
Oedogonium areschougii Wittrock ex Hirn meso Fil 28
O. pulchrum Nordstedt & Hirn meso Fil 85
Oedogonium sp. meso Fil 3
Scenedesmus ecornis (Ehrenberg) Chodat micro CNF 13
S. obtusus Meyen micro CNF 20
Sorastrum americanum (Bohlin) Schmidle micro CNF 4
S. spinulosum Nägeli micro CNF 4
Synura synuroidea (Prowse) Pusztai, Certnerová, Skaloudová & Skaloud micro CF 4
Mallomonas sp. micro UF 6
Aphanothece saxicola Nägeli micro CNF 18
Chroococcus obliteratus Richter nano CNF 26
Cyanobium eximium (J.J.Copeland) Komárek, Kopeck‡ & Cepák nano UNF 46
Cylindrospermum licheniforme Kützing ex Bornet & Flahault meso Fil 4
Hapalosiphon stuhlmannii Hieronymus meso Fil 49
Leptolyngbya perelegans (Lemmermann) Anagnostidis & Komárek micro Fil 28
Limnococcus limneticus (Lemmermann) Komárková, Jezberová, O.Komárek & Zapomelová nano CNF 4
Oscillatoria subbrevis Schmidle micro Fil 26
Planktolyngbya limnetica (Lemmermann) Komárková-Legnerová micro Fil 8
Planktothrix isothrix (Skuja) Komárek & Komárková micro Fil 20
Pseudanabaena acicularis (Nygaard) Anagnostidis & Komárek nano Fil 3
P. catenata Lauterborn micro Fil 33
P. mucicola (Naumann & Huber-Pestalozzi) Schwabe nano Fil 14 1
Romeria okensis (C.Meyer) Hindák nano Fil 11
Stigonema minutum Hassall ex Bornet & Flahault micro Fil 5 4
S. crassivaginatum (Geltler) Sant'Anna, Kaštovský, Hentschke & Komárek micro Fil 3
S. ocellatum Thuret ex Bornet & Flahault micro Fil 9
Stigonema sp. micro Fil 3
Scytonema sp. 1 micro Fil 4
Scytonema sp. 2 micro Fil 4
Synechococcus nidulans (Pringsheim) Komárek in Bourrelly nano UNF 40
Parvodinium umbonatum (Stein) S.Carty micro UF 79
Astasia comma Pringsheim micro UF 1
Euglena mutabilis F.Schmitz micro UF 56
Euglena sp. micro UF 9
Heteronema sp. 1 micro UF 1
Heteronema sp. 2 micro UF 19
Peranema trichophorum (Ehrenberg) Stein micro UF 5
Phacus ocellatus (Pringsheim) Marin & Melkonian micro UF 4
P. orbicularis Hübner micro UF 6
P. polytrophos Pochmann micro UF 26 21 8 21
P. wettsteinii Drezepolski micro UF
Rhabdomonas incurva Fresenius micro UF
Klebsormidium sp. micro Fil 3
Dispora speciosa Korshikov micro CNF 13
Eremosphaera viridis De Bary micro UNF 54
Lagerheimia chodatii C.Bernard nano UNF 1
Oocystis borgei J.W.Snow micro UNF 15
O. lacustris Chodat micro UNF 14
Rhopalosolen cylindricus (F.Lambert) Fott micro UNF 68
Actinotaenium mooreanum (W.Archer) Teiling nano UNF 5
Closterium cornu var. minus Irénée-Marie micro UNF 29
Cosmarium amoenum var. jiboensis G.J.P.Ramos, C.E.M. Bicudo & C.W.N.Moura micro UNF 43
C. bahianum G.J.P.Ramos, C.E.M. Bicudo & C.W.N.Moura micro UNF 16 10
C. elegantissimum Lundell micro UNF 60
C. majae Strøm nano UNF 16
C. oliveirae G.J.P.Ramos, C.E.M. Bicudo & C.W.N.Moura micro UNF 11
C. pachydermum var. aethiopicum (West & G.S.West) West & G.S.West micro UNF 11
C. pseudoconnatum Nordstedt micro UNF 29
C. scrobiculosum Borge micro UNF 56
Cosmarium sp. micro UNF 23
Docidium baculum Brébisson ex Ralfs micro UNF 65
Euastrum luetkemuelleri var. carniolicum (Lütkemüller) Willi Krieger micro UNF 24
E. quadriceps Nordstedt micro UNF 4
Micrasterias radians W.B.Turner micro UNF 65
Mougeotia sp. meso Fil 26
Netrium digitus (Brébisson ex Ralfs) Itzigsohn & Rothe micro UNF 48
Pleurotaenium trabecula Nägeli meso UNF 78
Spirotaenia closteridia (Kützing) Rabenhorst micro UNF 4
S. endospira W. Archer nano UNF 4
S. filiformis G.J.P.Ramos, C.E.M. Bicudo & C.W.N.Moura micro UNF 3
Staurastrum pseudosebaldi var. compactum A.M.Scott & Grönblad micro UNF 4
S. pseudoteliferum G.J.P.Ramos, C.E.M.Bicudo & C.W.N.Moura. micro UNF 44
Xanthidium mamillosum var. borgei K.Förster micro UNF 1

The species compositions of the microalgae communities showed low similarities among the different bromeliad species (Tab. 4). The species composition in A. nahoumii was only 3 % similar to that in A. cf. lingulatoides, 5 % similar to that in H. stellata, and 7 % similar to that in H. littoralis. The species composition in A. cf. lingulatoides was most similar to that in H. littoralis (13 %) and H. stellata (15 %).

Table 4 Sorensen's similarity index (expressed as %) applied to presence-absence matrix of microalgae species in water tanks of different bromeliad species.  

Alcantarea nahoumii Aechmea cf. lingulatoides Hohenbergia littoralis Hohenbergia stellata
Alcantarea nahoumii 100
Aechmea cf. lingulatoides 3 100
Hohenbergia littoralis 7 13 100
Hohenbergia stellata 5 15 13 100

Taxonomic groups - Richness and main representatives

Zygnematophyceae - Representatives were distributed among 24 taxa, with desmids being the dominant group (19 taxa). Among the most notable representatives were Cosmarium amoenum var. jiboensis, C. bahianum, C. oliveirae, Spirotaenia filiformis, and Staurastrum pseudoteliferum, which were recently described as new to science (Ramos et al. 2017a; b; 2018a). Pleurotaenium trabecula was the most frequent desmid in Serra da Jiboia (F = 78 %).

Chlorophyta - Green algae were one of the most diverse groups occurring in phytotelmata in Bahia State, being represented in the present study by two classes: Chlorophyceae (19 taxa) and Trebouxiophyceae (six taxa), which occurred in all four areas, especially Serra da Jiboia (20 taxa); Monoraphidium was the most representative genus (four species). Some taxa, such as Enallax costatus, were widely distributed in the bromeliad tanks of A. nahoumii; Oedogonium pulchrum was the only species consistently encountered, often forming large and dense populations in H. littoralis tanks.

Cyanobacteria - Cyanobacteria displayed the greatest species richness in the phytotelmata at Serra da Jiboia (21 taxa), especially Hapalosiphon stuhlmannii, which was the principal species forming gelatinous masses located in the central rosette of the bromeliads. Those masses contained numerous cyanobacteria representatives including coccoid and colonial, but mainly filamentous organisms.

Bacillariophyta - Diatoms were not very common in the phytotelmata studied, with only four taxa occurring in a small number of bromeliads in Serra da Jiboia and Fazenda Itaberaba.

Dinophyta - Dinoflagellates were represented by a single species (Parvodinium umbonatum) that was restricted to bromeliads at Serra da Jiboia. Nonetheless, that species showed the greatest frequency of occurrence (F = 79 %) among all taxa encountered at Serra da Jiboia.

Euglenophyta - Euglenophytes were represented by 11 taxa; Euglena mutabilis was the most frequent species (F=56 %) of that group in the bromeliads studied.


Microalgae richness and the influence of environmental factors

The high taxonomic richness of algae and cyanobacteria in the bromeliads at Serra da Jiboia was apparently related to the following factors: (1) plant architecture - Alcantarea nahoumii generally produces many (over 30) wide leaves that form large numbers of cavities (greater complexity) and consequently more places for water to accumulate; those leaves are also held at open angles that allow higher solar illumination; (2) the regional climate - the bromeliads grow on mountain tops, with forests on their slopes (distinct from the other three areas) - which favors the sites being constantly humid, so that the bromeliad tanks would not usually experience abrupt variations in water volumes (allowing greater community stability); (3) environmental data - the tank water was slightly acidic to neutral, with moderate conductivity and high TDS (indicative of high concentration of dissolved salts and nutrients) as compared to the other bromeliads; the usually high dissolved oxygen content probably contributed to a greater microalgae diversity.

In terms of plant architecture, Carrias et al. (2014) reported that greater bromeliad complexity (larger numbers of leaves - and consequently more sub-reservoirs) was associated with lower algal richness. The opposite was observed during the present study, however, mainly in A. nahoumii - the bromeliad species with the greatest number of leaves and the highest algal and cyanobacterial richness when compared to less complex bromeliads. Water volume may also directly influenced algal and cyanobacterial species richness and diversity, as the bromeliads at Serra da Jiboia usually contained large amounts of water well-distributed among the leaves in all four sampling periods.

Overall, the algal and cyanobacterial community similarities among the different bromeliads species were considered quite low (Tab. 4), and probably linked to the distinct environmental conditions in each of the four study areas. Additionally, different bromeliad species tend to host distinct algal communities (Carrias et al. 2014).

Recent studies have demonstrated that changes in rainfall distribution can reduce chlorophyll-a concentrations in bromeliad tanks and therefore significantly affect microalgae dominance (Pires et al. 2017). Although we did not measure chlorophyll-a concentrations in the water accumulated in each bromeliad tank, it was evident that the plants from Serra da Jiboia (A. nahoumii) and Parque das Dunas (H. littoralis) contained greater volumes of water than those at Reserva Sapiranga (H. stellata) and Fazenda Itaberaba (A. cf. lingulatoides) -and the bromeliads in the former two areas showed quite different richnesses. The unevenly distributed water storage by H. littoralis leaves (with large amounts of water accumulated in the central tank and considerably smaller volumes in the lateral tanks) may affect the low species richness in that bromeliad in Parque das Dunas. The leaves forming the central tank are usually long and perpendicular to the ground, which allows less light into the bottom of the central tank; the leaves forming the lateral tanks, however, are held at more open angles, permitting greater light penetration. Additionally, the very acidic waters and lower conductivity and TDS values measured in H. littoralis may depress algal and cyanobacterial richness.

Variations in the algal and cyanobacterial communities in phytotelmata would be quite natural, with some well-established taxa and others more temporary. When comparing the desmids in A. nahoumii tanks (Serra da Jiboia) identified during this study with the 16 taxa previously identified for the same area (Ramos et al. 2011), nine continued to inhabit the tanks, whereas the others had disappeared. The nine taxa that persisted are widely distributed among bromeliads in the area, and well-adapted to local conditions, usually forming large populations, even with considerable external impacts (such as fires).

In terms of H. stellata (Reserva Sapiranga), only 13 out of 80 bromeliads sampled contained representatives of algae or cyanobacteria, and the numbers of species per sample were very low. Some contributing factors to that situation probably included: (1) luminosity - the bromeliads were largely shaded, but many of plants exposed to high sunlight (open areas in the forest) showed low diversity. Even in open areas, leaves from surrounding trees will fall into the tanks, often almost completely covering them; and, (2) dissolved oxygen - DO concentrations were commonly quite low (mean of 4.8 mg L-1; near 2.5 mg L-1 in some samples). According to Laessle (1961), algae are usually abundant in bromeliads that have high DO concentrations - a condition rarely observed in H. stellata in the present study. Additionally, many of those bromeliads held only small amounts of water (or were completely dry during some sampling periods). Among the main components found in H. stellata tanks were fungi, pollen grains, protozoa and organic matter debris.

Taxonomic groups - Richness and main representatives

Desmids are one of the main microalgae groups occurring in bromeliad phytotelmata in Brazil (Sophia 1999; Sophia et al. 2004; Ramos et al. 2011). Water conditions, such as low pH and low conductivity, are typical of phytotelmata environments and favor desmid development (Sophia et al. 2004). A number of desmid species were recently described for the first time from bromeliads in Bahia State, suggesting that those environments as important centers of desmid biodiversity (Ramos et al. 2018a).

In terms of the main Chlorophyta taxa, we highlight the genus Rhopalosolen, which was recently reported for the first time for Brazil (Ramos et al. 2017c). In the bromeliads with a predominance of filamentous green algae (such as the genus Oedogonium), common predators such as rotifers, cladocerans, and copepods could be influencing the low observed algal richness.

The cyanobacteria comprise one of the most important groups found in phytotelmata in terms of taxonomic diversity and their ecological roles (Bermudes & Benzing 1991). An interesting feature of the cyanobacteria identified in the bromeliad phytotelmata was their normal association with rivers, waterfalls, tree barks, rocks, even hot springs (Komárek & Anagnostidis 1998; 2005; Komárek 2013) - so that bromeliad phytotelmata are important environments for cyanobacteria diversity and bring together in just one place species otherwise known from very diverse habitats.

The low diversity of diatoms encountered in bromeliad tanks was not surprising. In a study of diatoms in bromeliads in Rio de Janeiro State, however, Lyra (1971) reported reduced numbers of those microalgae and attributed that result to their oligotrophic tank water conditions, as well as other environmental factors such as light intensity and temperature. According to that author, mineral element concentrations in those environments could considerably interfere with frustule development - although Pinnularia is one of the most common diatom genera inhabiting those microhabitats, and has been reported in a number of different bromeliad species (Lyra 1971; 1976).

Parvodonium umbonatum (the only dinoflagellate identified in the present study) have been reported as occurring in bromeliads in Rio de Janeiro State (as Peridinium umbonatum; Sophia 1999). During dry periods, spherical, reddish-brown cysts of P. umbonatum were often encountered in the bromeliads at Serra da Jiboia - possibly representing a reproductive strategy in response to unfavorable environmental conditions. That species was consistently observed forming large populations during all of the sampling periods (Ramos et al. 2016).

In terms of Euglenophytes, Carrias et al. (2014) reported that heterotrophic microalgae species were dominant in areas exposed to direct sunlight - but that tendency was precisely the opposite among bromeliads in Bahia - with euglenophytes appearing predominantly in shaded (or partially shaded) bromeliads. Colorless euglenophytes were encountered at Reserva Sapiranga, but chlorophyllous taxa were much more common in bromeliads exposed to direct sunlight, especially Euglena mutabilis, which commonly forms large populations (Ramos et al. 2017d)

Although a total of nine microalgae classes were encountered in the four bromeliad species, other microalgae groups may occur in those phytotelmata, such as Xanthophyceae (Sophia 1999) and Cryptophyceae (Hernandez-Rodriguez et al. 2014), although little is currently known about the diversity of those groups in those microhabitats, and what environmental conditions are ideal for their development.


The algae and cyanobacteria communities found in the phytotelmata of bromeliads growing in distinct vegetation formations were all very different, with one bromeliad species (Alcantarea nahoumii) being especially distinguished by its high taxonomic richness. We also observed low microalgae species similarity among the bromeliads studied, with only one species (Phacus polytrophos) occurring in all four bromeliad species.

Overall, the following conditions were found to be favorable to high algae and cyanobacteria richness in bromeliad phytotelmata: slightly acidic water at high temperatures, moderate conductivity, large numbers of leaves (with large amounts of water), high dissolved oxygen levels, and high environmental light intensities (Laessle 1961; Sophia et al. 2004; Brouard et al. 2011; Marino et al. 2011), high rainfall (Pires et al. 2017), and available nutrients (Laessle 1961; Marino et al. 2011).

Combined analyses of limnological variables, bromeliad position (shade or sun), and plant morphology are important to understanding the patterns of microalgae communities in phytotelmata environments, and more detailed studies will be needed to increase our knowledge of algae and cyanobacteria distributions and their ecological relationships within that interesting microhabitat.


The authors thank CNPq - Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico and FAPESB - Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado da Bahia (Project “Flora da Bahia”, 483909/2012) for their financial support. GJPR thanks FAPESB for the doctoral fellowship (nº BOL0513/2014).


Bermudes D, Benzing DH. 1991. Nitrogen fixation in association with Ecuadorian bromeliads. Journal of Tropical Ecology 7: 531-536. [ Links ]

Bicudo CEM, Menezes M. 2017. Gêneros de algas de águas continentais do Brasil: chave para identificação e descrições. São Carlos, RiMa Editora. [ Links ]

Bioinformatics & Evolutionary Genomics 2017. Ghent, Ghent University. . 7 Nov. 2017. [ Links ]

Brouard O, Jeune A-H, Leroy C, et al. 2011. Are algae relevant to the detritus-based food web in tank-bromeliads? PLOS ONE 6: e20129. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020129 [ Links ]

Brower JE, Zar JH, Ende CN. 1998. Field and laboratory methods for general ecology. 4th edn. Boston, WCB/McGraw-Hill. [ Links ]

Carrias JF, Céréghino R, Brouard O, et al. 2014. Two coexisting tank bromeliads host distinct algal communities on a tropical inselberg. Plant Biology 16: 997-1004. [ Links ]

Carty S. 2014. Freshwater dinoflagellates of North America. Ithaca/London, Comstock Publishing Associates. [ Links ]

Crossetti LO, Bicudo CEM. 2008. Adaptations in phytoplankton life strategies to imposed change in a shallow urban tropical eutrophic reservoir, Garças Reservoir, over 8 years. Hydrobiologia 614: 91-105. [ Links ]

Fish D. 1983. Phytotelmata: flora and fauna. In: Frank JH, Lounibos LP. (eds.) Phytotelmata: terrestrial plants as host for aquatic insect communities. New Jersey, Plexus. p. 1-293. [ Links ]

Gebühr C, Pohlon E, Schmidt AR, Küsel K. 2006. Development of microalgae communities in the phytotelmata of allochthonous populations of Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae). Plant Biology 8: 849-860. [ Links ]

Hernández-Rodríguez B, Estrada-Vargas L, Novelo E. 2014. Las microalgas de Tillandsia multicaulis Steud. (Bromeliaceae) de la Reserva Ecológica “La Martinica”, Veracruz. TIP Revista Especializada en Ciencias Químico-Biológicas 17: 117-125. [ Links ]

Hothorn T, Bretz F, Westfall P. 2008. Simultaneous inference in general parametric models. Biometrical Journal 50: 346-363. [ Links ]

Huber-Pestalozzi G. 1955. Euglenophyceen. In: Huber-Pestalozzi G. (ed.) Das Phytoplankton des Susswasser, Systematik und Biologie. Teil 4. Stuttgart, E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlangsbuchhandlung. p. 1-605. [ Links ]

INMET - Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia. 2018. Seção Tempo - Subseção Tempo Agora / Gráficos. . 10 Jan. 2018. [ Links ]

John DM, Whitton BA, Brook AB. 2011. The Freshwater Algal flora of the British isles. 2nd edn. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. [ Links ]

Killick SA, Blanchon DJ, Large MF. 2014. Algal communities in phytotelmata: A comparison of native Collospermum and exotic bromeliads (Monocotyledonae) in New Zealand. Telopea 17: 311-318. [ Links ]

Komárek J. 2013. Süsswasserflora von Mitteleuropa. Vol. 19. Cyanoprokaryota: 3rd part: heterocystous genera. Heidelberg, Springer Spektrum. [ Links ]

Komárek J, Anagnostidis K. 1998. Cyanoprokaryota I. - In: Ettl H, Gärtner G, Heynig H, Mollenhauer D. (eds.) Süßwasserflora von Mitteleuropa, Band 19/1, Stuttgart/Jena, Gustav Fischer Verlag. p.1-548. [ Links ]

Komárek J, Anagnostidis K. 2005. Süsswasserflora von Mitteleuropa Vol. 19. Cyanoprokaryota: 2. Teil/2nd Part: Oscillatoriales. München, Elsevier Spektrum Akademischer Verlag. p. 1-759. [ Links ]

Komárek J, Fott B. 1983. Chlorophyceae - Chlorococcales. In: Huber-Pestalozzi G. (ed.) Das Phytoplankton des Süsswassers: Systematic und Biologie. Stuttgart, E. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandling (Nägele u. Obermiller). p. 1-1044. [ Links ]

Laessle AM. 1961. A micro-lirnnological study of Jamaican Bromeliads. Ecology 42: 499-517. [ Links ]

Lyra LT. 1971. Algumas diatomáceas encontradas em Bromeliáceas, Brasil. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 69: 129-139. [ Links ]

Lyra LT. 1976. Microflora de bromeliáceas do Estado de Pernambuco, Brasil. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 14: 37-50. [ Links ]

Maguire B. 1971. Phytotelmata biota and community structure determination in plant-held waters. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 2: 439-464. [ Links ]

Marino NAC, Guariento RB, Dib V, Azevedo FD, Farjalla VF. 2011. Habitat size determine algae biomass in tank-bromeliads. Hydrobiologia 678: 191-199. [ Links ]

Matteucci SD, Colma A. 1982. Metodología para el estudio de la vegetatión. Washington, OEA. [ Links ]

Muller-Dombois D. 1981. Ecological measurements and microbial populations. In: Wicklow DT, Carroll GC. (eds.) The fungal community: Its organization and role in the ecosystem. New York, Marcel Derker. p. 173-184. [ Links ]

Pires APF, Leal JS, Peeters ETHM. 2017. Rainfall changes affect the algae dominance in tank bromeliad ecosystems. PLOS ONE 12(4): e0175436. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175436 [ Links ]

Prescott GW, Croasdale HT, Vinyard HT. 1975. A synopsis of North American desmids: part II.Desmidiaceae: Placodermae. Section 1. Lincoln/ London, University of Nebraska Press. [ Links ]

R Core Team 2017. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, R Foundation for Statistical Computing. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Alves-da-Silva SM, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2017d. Euglenophyceae from bromeliad phytotelmata: new records for Bahia state and Brazil. Check List 13: 447-454. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2016. First record of Parvodinium umbonatum (Stein) Carty (Peridiniaceae, Dinophyta) for northeast Brazil. Check List 12: 1-6. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2017a. Cosmarium bahianum, sp. nov. (Desmidiaceae), a new desmid species from a phytotelm habitat in the Brazilian restinga. Phytotaxa 291: 66-72. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2017b. Taxonomic notes on Spirotaenia (Mesotaeniaceae, Zygnematophyceae) from a Brazilian phytotelm habitat: new species and new records. Phytotaxa 309: 265-270. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2017c. Algae in phytotelmata from Caatinga: first record of the genus Rhopalosolen Fott (Chlorophyta) for Brazil. Check List 13: 403-410. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2018a. Some new, rare and interesting desmids from bromeliad phytotelmata in Brazil. Phytotaxa 346: 59-77. [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Bicudo CEM, Moura CWN. 2018b. Diversity of green algae (Chlorophyta) from bromeliad phytotelmata in areas of rocky outcrops and “restinga”, Bahia State, Brazil. Rodriguésia (in press). [ Links ]

Ramos GJP, Oliveira IB, Moura CWN. 2011. Desmídias de ambiente fitotelmata bromelícola da Serra da Jiboia, Bahia, Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Biociências 9: 103-113. [ Links ]

Reynolds CS. 2006. Ecology of phytoplankton. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press . [ Links ]

Sophia MG. 1999. Desmídias de ambientes fitotélmicos bromelícolas. Revista Brasileira de Biologia 59: 141-150. [ Links ]

Sophia MG, Carmo BP, Huszar VL. 2004. Desmids of phytotelm terrestrial bromeliads from the National Park of “Restinga de Jurubatiba”, Southeast Brasil. Algological Studies 114: 99-119. [ Links ]

Varga L. 1928. Ein interessanter Biotop der Biocönose von Wasserorganismen. Biologisches Zentralblatt 48: 143-162. [ Links ]

Wołowski K. 2011. Euglenophyta (Euglenoids). In: John DM, Whitton BA, Brook AJ. (eds.) The Freshwater Algal flora of the British isles. An identification guide to freshwater and terrestrial algae. 2nd edn. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press . p. 181-239. [ Links ]

Received: February 23, 2018; Accepted: April 17, 2018

* Corresponding author:

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License