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.
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Wang, X., Xiao, H., Ren, J. et al. An ultrasonic humidification fluorescent tracing method for detecting unsaturated atmospheric water absorption by the aerial parts of desert plants. J. Arid Land 8, 272–283 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-015-0018-z