The periodic wetting of leaves enhances water relations and growth of the long-lived conifer Araucaria angustifolia

Authors


  • Editor
    J. Sparks

L. R. Dillenburg, Departamento de Botânica, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Av. Bento Gonçalves 9500, 91501-970-Porto Alegre, Brazil.
E-mail: lucia.dillenburg@ufrgs.br

Abstract

The importance of foliar absorption of water and atmospheric solutes in conifers was recognised in the 1970s, and the importance of fog as a water source in forest environments has been recently demonstrated. Araucaria angustifolia (Araucariaceae) is an emergent tree species that grows in montane forests of southern Brazil, where rainfall and fog are frequent events, leading to frequent wetting of the leaves. Despite anatomical evidence in favour of leaf water absorption, there is no information on the existence and physiological significance of a such process. In this study, we test the hypothesis that the use of atmospheric water by leaves takes place and is physiologically relevant for the species, by comparing growth, water relations and nutritional status between plants grown under two conditions of soil water (well-watered and water-stressed plants) and three types of leaf spraying (none, water and nutrient solution spray). Leaf spraying had a greater effect in improving plant water relations when plants were under water stress. Plant growth was more responsive to water available to the leaves than to the roots, and was equally increased by both types of leaf spraying, with no interaction with soil water status. Spraying leaves with nutrient solution increased shoot ramification and raised the concentrations of N, P, K, Zn, Cu and Fe in the roots. Our results provide strong indications that water and nutrients are indeed absorbed by leaves of A. angustifolia, and that this process might be as important as water uptake by its roots.

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