Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2016, Vol. 8 Issue (2): 272-283    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0018-z
Research Articles     
An ultrasonic humidification fluorescent tracing method for detecting unsaturated atmospheric water absorption by the aerial parts of desert plants
WANG Xiaohua*, XIAO Honglang, REN Juan, CHENG Yiben, YANG Qiu
Key Laboratory of Eco-hydrology in Inland River Basin, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
Download:   PDF(361KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      

Abstract  Atmospheric water absorption by plants has been explored for more than two centuries, and the aerial parts of plants, particularly the leaves of certain species, have been demonstrated to have an ability to absorb and utilize saturated atmospheric water such as fog, dew and condensed water. So far, however, there have been few studies on the aerial parts of desert plants in their absorption of unsaturated water from the atmosphere. This study presents an ultrasonic humidification fluorescent tracing method of detecting unsaturated atmospheric water absorption by the aerial parts of desert plants. We constructed an organic glass room based on the sizes of field plants. Then, the aboveground parts of the plants were humidified in the sealed glasshouse using an ultrasonic humidifier containing fluorescent reagents. The humidity and wetting time were controlled by turning on or off the humidifier according to the reading of a thermo-hygrometer suspended in the glasshouse. Fluorescence microscopy was employed to observe these plant samples. This method can generate unsaturated atmospheric water vapor and incorporate other fluorescent reagents or water-soluble chemical reagents for gasified humidification. In addition, it can identify plant parts that absorb unsaturated atmospheric water from the air, detect water absorption sites on the surface of leaves or tender stems, and determine the ability of tissues or microstructure of aerial parts to absorb water. This method provides a direct visual evidence for the inspection of leaf or tender stem microstructure in response to unsaturated atmospheric water absorption. Moreover, this method shows that aqueous pores in the cuticles of leaves or tender stems of desert plants are large enough to allow the passage of ionic fluorescent brightener with a molecular weight of up to 917 g/mol. Thus, this paper provides an important approach that explores the mechanism by which desert plants utilize unsaturated atmospheric water.

Key wordsLandsat TM      Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI)      snow cover      uncertainty      Manas River Basin     
Received: 15 July 2015      Published: 01 April 2016

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91125025, 31400319).

Corresponding Authors: WANG Xiaohua     E-mail:
Cite this article:

WANG Xiaohua, XIAO Honglang, REN Juan, CHENG Yiben, YANG Qiu. An ultrasonic humidification fluorescent tracing method for detecting unsaturated atmospheric water absorption by the aerial parts of desert plants. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(2): 272-283.

URL:     OR

Asbjornsen H, Mora G, Helmers M J. 2007. Variation in water uptake dynamics among contrasting agricultural and native plant communities in the Midwestern U.S. Agriculture, Ecosystem & Environment, 121(4): 343–356.

Barthlott W, Neinhuis C. 1997. Purity of the sacred lotus, or escape from contamination in biological surfaces. Planta, 202(1): 1–8.

Bauer L. 1953. Addressing the question of mass transport within the plant with specific emphasis on the migration of fluorochromes. Planta, 42(5): 367–451.

Bhushan B, Jung Y C. 2006. Micro- and nanoscale characterization of hydrophobic and hydrophilic leaf surfaces. Nanotechnology, 17(11): 2758–2772.

Breshears D D, McDowell N G, Goddard K L, et al. 2008. Foliar absorption of intercepted rainfall improves woody plant water status most during drought. Ecology, 89(1): 41–47.

Brezeale E L, McGeorge W T, Brezeale J F. 1950. Moisture absorption by plants from an atmosphere of high humidity. Plant Physiology, 25(3): 413–419.

Burgess S S O, Adams M A, Turner N C, et al. 1998. The redistribution of soil water by tree root systems. Oecologia, 115(3): 306–311.

Burgess S S O, Dawson T E. 2004. The contribution of fog to the water relations of Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don): foliar uptake and prevention of dehydration. Plant, Cell & Environment, 27(8): 1023–1034.

Burkhardt J. 2010. Hygroscopic particles on leaves: nutrients or desiccants? Ecological Monographs, 80(3): 369–399.

Burkhardt J, Basi S, Pariyar S, et al. 2012. Stomatal penetration by aqueous solutions—an update involving leaf surface particles. New Phytologist, 196(3): 774–787.

Burton Z, Bhushan B. 2006. Surface characterization and adhesion and friction properties of hydrophobic leaf surfaces. Ultramicroscopy, 106(8–9): 709–719.

Dawson T E, Ehleringer J R. 1991. Streamside trees that do not use stream water. Nature, 350(6316): 335–337.

Eichert T, Burkhardt J. 2001. Quantification of stomatal uptake of ionic solutes using a new model system. Journal of Experimental Botany, 52(357): 771–781.

Eichert T, Kurtz A, Steiner U, et al. 2008. Size exclusion limits and lateral heterogeneity of the stomatal foliar uptake pathway for aqueous solutes and water-suspended nanoparticles. Physiologia Plantarum, 134(1): 151–160.

Eller C B, Lima A L, Oliveira R S. 2013. Foliar uptake of fog water and transport belowground alleviates drought effects in the cloud forest tree species, Drimys brasiliensis (Winteraceae). New Phytologist, 199(1): 151–162.

Fahn A. 1986. Structural and functional properties of trichomes of xeromorphic leaves. Annals of Botany, 57(5): 631–637.

Gotsch S G, Asbjornsen H, Holwerda F, et al. 2014. Foggy days and dry nights determine crown–level water balance in a seasonal tropical montane cloud forest. Plant, Cell & Environment, 37(1): 261–272.

Gouvra E, Grammatikopoulos G. 2003. Beneficial effects of direct foliar water uptake on shoot water potential of five chasmophytes. Canadian Journal of Botany, 81(12): 1278–1284.

Grammatikopoulos G, Manetas Y. 1994. Direct absorption of water by hairy leaves of Phlomis fruticosa and its contribution to drought avoidance. Canadian Journal of Botany, 72(12): 1805–1811.

Koch K, Bhushan B, Barthlott W. 2009. Multifunctional surface structures of plants: An inspiration for biomimetics. Progress in Materials Science, 54(2): 137–178.

Limm E B, Dawson T E. 2010. Polystichum munitum (Dryopteridaceae) varies geographically in its capacity to absorb fog water by foliar uptake within the redwood forest ecosystem. American Journal of Botany, 97(7): 1121–1128.

Liu Z Q, Gaskin R E. 2004. Visualisation of the uptake of two model xenobiotics into bean leaves by confocal laser scanning microscopy: diffusion pathways and implication in phloem translocation. Pest Management Science, 60(5): 434–439.

Maier-Maercker U. 1979. Peristomatal transpiration and stomatal movement: a controversial view III. Visible effects of peri stomatal transpiration on the epidermis. Journal of Plant Physiology, 91(3): 225–238.

Martin C E, von Willert D J. 2000. Leaf epidermal hydathodes and the ecophysiological consequences of foliar water uptake in species of Crassula from the Namib Desert in Southern Africa. Plant Biology, 2(2): 229–242.

Mastroberti A A, de Araujo Mariath J E. 2008. Development of mucilage cells of Araucaria angustifolia (Araucariaceae). Protoplasma, 232(3–4): 233–245.

Mooney H A, Gulmon S L, Ehleringer J, et al. 1980. Atmospheric water uptake by an Atacama Desert shrub. Science, 209(4457): 693–694.

Munné-Bosch S, Alegre L. 1999. Role of dew on the recovery of water-stressed Melissa officinalis L. plants. Journal of Plant Physiology, 154(5–6): 759–766.

Munné-Bosch S, Nogués S, Alegre L. 1999. Diurnal variations of photosynthesis and dew absorption by leaves in two evergreen shrubs growing in Mediterranean field conditions. New Phytologist, 144(1): 109–119.

Neinhuis C, Barthlott W. 1997. Characterization and distribution of water-repellent, self-cleaning plant surfaces. Annals of Botany, 79(6): 667–677.

O’Brien T P, McCully M E. 1981. The Study of Plant Structure: Principles and Selected Methods. Melbourne: Termarcarphi Pty. Ltd.

Oliveira R S, Dawson T E, Burgess S S O. 2005. Evidence for direct water absorption by the shoot of the desiccation-tolerant plant Vellozia flavicans in the savannas of central Brazil. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 21(5): 585–588.

Otten A, Herminghaus S. 2004. How plants keep dry: a physicist’s point of view. Langmuir, 20(6): 2405–2408.

Phillips D L, Koch P L. 2002. Incorporating concentration dependence in stable isotope mixing models. Oecologia, 130(1): 114–125.

Phillips D L, Newsome S D, Gregg J W. 2005. Combining sources in stable isotope mixing models: alternative methods. Oecologia, 144(4): 520–527.

Schlegel T K, Schönherr J, Schreiber L. 2005. Size selectivity of aqueous pores in stomatous cuticles of Vicia faba leaves. Planta, 221(5): 648–655.

Schönherr J. 1976. Water permeability of isolated cuticular membranes: the effect of cuticular waxes on diffusion of water. Planta, 131(2): 159–164.

Schönherr J. 2006. Characterization of aqueous pores in plant cuticles and permeation of ionic solutes. Journal of Experimental Botany, 75(11): 2471–2491.

Schreiber L. 2005. Polar paths of diffusion across plant cuticles: new evidence for an old hypothesis. Annals of Botany, 95(7): 1069–1073.

Stone E C, Went F W, Young C L. 1950. Water absorption from the atmosphere by plants growing in dry soil. Science, 111(2890): 546–548.

Strugger S. 1939. Luminescence microscopical analysis of the parenchymatic plant transpiration stream. 3. Investigations on Helxine soleirolii Req. Biological Central Journal, 59: 409–442.

Westhoff M, Zimmermann D, Zimmermann G, et al. 2009. Distribution and function of epistomatal mucilage plugs. Protoplasma, 235: 101–105.

Zhuang Y L, Ratchiffe S. 2012. Relationship between dew presence and Bassia dasyphylla plant growth. Journal of Arid Land, 4(1): 11–18.

Zimmermann D, Westhoff M, Zimmermann G, et al. 2007. Foliar water supply of tall trees: evidence for mucilage-facilitated moisture uptake from the atmosphere and the impact on pressure bomb measurements. Protoplasma, 232(1–2): 11–34.
[1] SA Chula, MENG Fanhao, LUO Min, LI Chenhao, WANG Mulan, ADIYA Saruulzaya, BAO Yuhai. Spatiotemporal variation in snow cover and its effects on grassland phenology on the Mongolian Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(4): 332-349.
[2] Anlifeire ANNIWAER, SU Yangui, ZHOU Xiaobing, ZHANG Yuanming. Impacts of snow on seed germination are independent of seed traits and plant ecological characteristics in a temperate desert of Central Asia[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 775-790.
[3] YAN Min, ZUO Hejun, WANG Haibing, DONG Zhi, LI Gangtie. Snow resisting capacity of Caragana microphylla and Achnatherum splendens in a typical steppe region of Inner Mongolia, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(2): 294-302.
[4] Shaobo ZHANG, Fulong CHEN, Jie CHEN, Jing WANG, Shaofei LI, Aihua LONG. A cultivated area forecasting approach in artificial oases under climate change and human activities[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(3): 400-418.
[5] SONG Xiaodong, ZHANG Ganlin, LIU Feng, LI Decheng, ZHAO Yuguo, YANG Jinling. Modeling spatio-temporal distribution of soil moisture by deep learning-based cellular automata model[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(5): 734-748.
[6] Jun ZHAO, YinFang SHI, YongSheng HUANG, JieWen FU. Uncertainties of snow cover extraction caused by the nature of topography and underlying surface[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 285-295.
[7] Yi ZHOU, Bing GUO, ShiXin WANG, HePing TAO. An estimation method of soil wind erosion in Inner Mongolia of China based on geographic information system and remote sensing[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 304-317.
[8] Jeff B LANGMAN. Spatial distribution of δ2H and δ18O values in the hydrologic cycle of the Nile Basin[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(2): 133-145.
[9] Fei WANG, Xi CHEN, GePing LUO, JianLi DING, XianFeng CHEN. Detecting soil salinity with arid fraction integrated index and salinity index in feature space using Landsat TM imagery[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(3): 340-353.
[10] Yue HUANG, Xi CHEN, YongPing LI, AnMing BAO, YongGang MA. A simulation-based two-stage interval-stochastic programming model for water resources management in Kaidu-Konqi watershed, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2012, 4(4): 390-398.
[11] HongBo LING, HaiLiang XU, JinYi FU, XinHua LIU. Surface runoff processes and sustainable utilization of water resources in Manas River Basin, Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2012, 4(3): 271-280.