Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cloud forest trees drink water through their leaves

Robert Sanders in the University of California-Berkeley News Center: Tropical montane cloud forest trees use more than their roots to take up water. They also drink water from clouds directly through their leaves, University of California, Berkeley, scientists have discovered.

While this is an essential survival strategy in foggy but otherwise dry areas, the scientists say that the clouds the trees depend on are now disappearing due to climate change.

“The study highlights the vulnerability of this rare and already endangered ecosystem to climate change,” said Todd Dawson, senior author of the study and UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. Changes in cloud cover have already been correlated to declines and disappearances of cloud forest animal populations, such as frogs and salamanders.

The new study will be published next year in the journal Ecology Letters and is available online this month.

In tropical montane cloud forests, leaves are constantly bathed in clouds, making them wet. The leaves of the most common cloud forest trees drink this cloud water when water from the soil just isn’t enough, said Greg Goldsmith, lead author of the study and a graduate student in Dawson’s lab.

“Many cloud forests experience an annual dry season when the primary water source isn’t rain, but rather, the moisture from the clouds,” he said. “This is when the trees are most likely to draw water in through their leaves.”...

Graduate student Greg Goldsmith in the montaine cloud forest of Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Drew Fulton (Canopy in the Clouds)

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