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Leaf surface traits contributing to wettability, water interception and uptake of above-ground water sources in shrubs of Patagonian arid ecosystems.

  • Cavallaro, Agustín1, 2
  • Carbonell-Silletta, Luisina1, 2
  • Burek, Antonella1, 2
  • Goldstein, Guillermo3, 4
  • Scholz, Fabián G1, 2
  • Bucci, Sandra J1, 2
  • 1 Grupo de Estudios Biofísicos y Eco-fisiológicos (GEBEF), Instituto de Biociencias de la Patagonia (INBIOP), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnica (CONICET) and Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco (UNPSJB), 9000 Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. , (Argentina)
  • 2 Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Ciencias de la Salud, UNPSJB, 9000 Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. , (Argentina)
  • 3 Laboratorio de Ecología Funcional, Instituto de Ecología, Genética y Evolución de Buenos Aires (IEGEBA, CONICET - Universidad de Buenos Aires), 1428 Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. , (Argentina)
  • 4 Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33146, USA.
Published Article
Annals of Botany
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Sep 19, 2022
DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcac042
PMID: 35325023


The ecohydrological significance of leaf wetting due to atmospheric water in arid and semiarid ecosystems is not well understood. In these environments, the inputs of precipitation or dew formation resulting in leaf wetting have positive effects on plant functioning. However, its impact on plant water relations may depend on the degree of leaf surface wettability. In this study we evaluated leaf wettability and other leaf traits and its effects on foliar water uptake and canopy interception in plant species of a Patagonian steppe. We also studied how leaf traits affecting wettability vary seasonally from growing to dry season. Contact angle of a water droplet with the leaf surface, water adhesion, droplet retention angle, stomatal density, cuticular conductance, canopy interception and maximum foliar water uptake were determined in six dominant shrub species. All species increased leaf wettability during the dry season and most species were considered highly wettable. The leaf surface had very high capacity to store and retain water. We found a negative correlation between foliar water uptake and leaf hydrophilia. Despite the diversity of life forms, including cushion shrubs and tall shrubs, as well as phenological variability, all species converged in similar seasonal changes in leaf traits that favour wettability. Intercepted water by crowns and the extremely high capacity of retention of droplets on leaf surfaces can have a significant impact on eco-hydrological process in water limited ecosystems where most of water sources during the growing and the dry season may be small rainfall events or dew, which do not always increase soil water availability. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected]

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