Newswise — Aug. 2, 2018 – Heads’ up! Did you know that researchers have also found soils in the trees above our heads? The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) August 1 Soils Matter blog explains how these unique soils form and the role they play in their ecosystems.

Plants that grow on trees are called epiphytes and can include mosses, ferns, vines, and orchids. “Just like leaves in your yard might accumulate in the fall, dead leaves and needles from the treetops get caught in the epiphytes,” says Camila Tejo Haristoy, Universidad Austral de Chile. “The epiphytes themselves have a limited lifespan. All of this organic matter begins to decay. The naturally-occurring microbial life in the trees helps to decompose the organic matter, and eventually, the result is soil!”

Canopy soils can be found in areas with heavy rainfall, including Costa Rica, USA, Chile, Taiwan, Columbia, and New Zealand. The roots found in this soil include those from the epiphytes as well the host tree itself! “The host tree can also obtain water and nutrients from canopy soils by growing - from a branch several feet aboveground - canopy roots that go directly to the canopy soil,” Haristoy writes.

“The canopy soils environment is a marvelous world to explore and discover. It’s a new area of research with much to be discovered. And studying canopy soils makes soil scientists learn a new skill–we have to climb up instead of digging in!”

To read the entire blog post, visit

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