Trees in tropical montane cloud forests cope with the dry season using leaves that absorb water from clouds.

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Cloud forests are dense tracts of evergreen trees that are characterized by frequent fog or cloud cover at the canopy level. During the dry season when rain is scarce in these forests, tree roots might not get enough water from the ground to meet the plant’s needs. However, leaves on trees in cloud forests can get water from another source: the air. When clouds roll through the canopy, moisture from the clouds condenses onto the leaves and wets their surfaces. The water gets drawn in through the leaves and travels through branches toward the trunk.

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“We used satellite and ground-based observations to study cloud and leaf wetting patterns in contrasting tropical montane and pre-montane cloud forests. We then studied the consequences of leaf wetting for the direct uptake of water accumulated on leaf surfaces into the leaves themselves. During the dry season, the montane forest experienced higher precipitation, cloud cover and leaf wetting events of longer duration than the pre-montane forest. Leaf wetting events resulted in foliar water uptake in all species studied. The capacity for foliar water uptake differed significantly between the montane and pre-montane forest plant communities, as well as among species within a forest. Our results indicate that foliar water uptake is common in these forest plants and improves plant water status during the dry season.” (Goldsmith et al. 2013:307)

Journal article
The incidence and implications of clouds for cloud forest plant water relationsEcology Letters, 16(3): 307–314March 1, 2013
Goldsmith GR, Matzke NJ, Dawson TE

Magazine article
Cloud Forest Trees Drink From the FogScience Magazine NewsDecember 17, 2012
Treacy S

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Living System/s

Tropical montane cloud forest

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