Foliar uptake, carbon fluxes and water status are affected by the timing of daily fog in saplings from a threatened cloud forest

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Abstract

In cloud forests, foliar uptake (FU) of water has been reported for numerous species, possibly acting to relieve daily water and carbon stress. While the prevalence of FU seems common, how daily variation in fog timing may affect this process has not been studied. We examined the quantity of FU, water potentials, gas exchange and abiotic variation at the beginning and end of a 9-day exposure to fog in a glasshouse setting. Saplings ofAbies fraseri(Pursh) Poir. andPicea rubensSarg. were exposed to morning (MF), afternoon (AF) or evening fog (EF) regimes to assess the ability to utilize fog water at different times of day and after sustained exposure to simulated fog. The greatest amount of FU occurred during MF (up to 50%), followed by AF (up to 23%) and then EF, which surprisingly had no FU. There was also a positive relationship between leaf conductance and FU, suggesting a role of stomata in FU. Moreover, MF and AF lead to the greatest improvements in daily water balance and carbon gain, respectively. Foliar uptake was important for improving plant ecophysiology but was influenced by diurnal variation in fog. With climate change scenarios predicting changes to cloud patterns and frequency that will likely alter diurnal patterns, cloud forests that rely on this water subsidy could be affected.

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