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The role of dew in Negev Desert plants

Abstract

We investigated the possible use of dew as a water source for three desert plant species native to the Negev Desert: an annual Salsola inermis, and two perennials Artemisia sieberi and Haloxylon scoparium, with different rooting depths of 15, 30 and 90 cm, respectively. We quantified dew-water inputs and used stable isotope analyses to determine the proportion of dew as compared to the proportion of soil water each species utilized. Dew was isotopically enriched (δD values ranged from −25 to 5 ‰), relative to rainfall with δD values that ranged from −40 to −20 ‰ and relative to soil water with δD values that ranged from −65 to −35 ‰. Using a two-source isotope mixing model, we found that S. inermis, A. sieberi and H. scoparium used, on average, 56, 63 and 46 % of their water from dewfall, respectively. Our results suggest that dew-water utilization by Negev Desert plants is highly significant ecologically and thus may be more common than previously thought. In light of future predicted climate change, it may be increasingly important for plants of the Negev Desert to make use of dew as a water resource as it may play an important role in their ability to cope with the associated hydrological constraints predicted for the Negev region.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Christopher Wong for his assistance with plant and soil water extractions and Paul Brooks for assistance with the stable isotope analyses. We would like to thank Dodik Avraham for his consultations and advice on isotope analysis. We would also like to thank Ishai Hofman, Yuval Shani and Pedro Berliner for their help in constructing the dew meter, and constructive comments, and to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful advice. This research was supported by Israel Science Foundation project number 958/10.

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Correspondence to Shimon Rachmilevitch.

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Highlighted student paper: Our results indicated that certain desert plant species, especially shallow-rooted species, depend on dew. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to show directly that several desert species utilize dew as a water source and sheds new light on the intricate balance between plants and their surroundings, especially in ecosystems in which water is limited. In light of predicted desertification and climate change, the use of dew as a water resource by plants may serve an important role in plants in general and specifically in arid and semi-arid regions worldwide.

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Hill, A.J., Dawson, T.E., Shelef, O. et al. The role of dew in Negev Desert plants. Oecologia 178, 317–327 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3287-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3287-5

Keywords

  • Water
  • Stable isotopes
  • Climate change
  • Drought tolerance
  • Aridity