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Keywords:

  • drought;
  • fog;
  • hydraulic failure;
  • hydraulic redistribution;
  • sap flow;
  • soil–plant–atmosphere continuum;
  • stable isotopes;
  • tropical cloud forests

Summary

  • Foliar water uptake (FWU) is a common water acquisition mechanism for plants inhabiting temperate fog-affected ecosystems, but the prevalence and consequences of this process for the water and carbon balance of tropical cloud forest species are unknown.
  • We performed a series of experiments under field and glasshouse conditions using a combination of methods (sap flow, fluorescent apoplastic tracers and stable isotopes) to trace fog water movement from foliage to belowground components of Drimys brasiliensis. In addition, we measured leaf water potential, leaf gas exchange, leaf water repellency and growth of plants under contrasting soil water availabilities and fog exposure in glasshouse experiments to evaluate FWU effects on the water and carbon balance of D. brasiliensis saplings.
  • Fog water diffused directly through leaf cuticles and contributed up to 42% of total foliar water content. FWU caused reversals in sap flow in stems and roots of up to 26% of daily maximum transpiration. Fog water transported through the xylem reached belowground pools and enhanced leaf water potential, photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and growth relative to plants sheltered from fog.
  • Foliar uptake of fog water is an important water acquisition mechanism that can mitigate the deleterious effects of soil water deficits for D. brasiliensis.