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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

Studies of the sources of potentially available water in Death Valley and of the extent to which Peucephyllum schottii, Atriplex hymenelytra and Larrea divaricata can utilize these sources show that water condensed on rocks from distillation in the soils and available soil water are major sources of water for these species. The delivery rate of distillation is extremely important to plants. A range of soil temperatures of 10° with a 0–3 cm soil maximum of 36–40° is essential to provide the energy for distillation and condensation of significant quantities of water. All three species appear to be able to absorb water into the parenchyma of their leaves after rain or on exposure to high humidity, but dew and conditions of high aerial moisture are rare in this desert. It is difficult to establish whether aerial water is actually usable by plants. The transpiration rate does appear to increase during the periods of highest moisture content and active growth (March-early June), Larrea leaves had consistently low relative saturation percents (50 to 80%) indicating their ability to withstand drought and to take up small quantities of water when it is available. Atriplex varied greatly in the amount of water the leaves held, relative to their saturated weight (68 to 84%) as the seasons progressed, while Peucephyllum leaves were intermediate (68 to 97%) in their ability to store water and appeared to be least able to withstand low moisture levels or frost (observations).

Affiliations: 1: Desert Research Institute, University of Nevada System ; 2: College of Natural Resources, Utah State University


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