The Value of Wet Leaves

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An often‐overlooked feature of all plants is that their leaf surfaces are wet for significant periods over their lifetimes. Leaf wetting has a number of direct and indirect effects on plant function from the scale of the leaf to that of the ecosystem. The costs of leaf wetting for plant function, such as the growth of pathogens and the leaching of nutrients, have long been recognized. However, an emerging body of research has also begun to demonstrate some very clear benefits. For instance, leaf wetting can improve plant–water relations and lead to increased photosynthesis. Leaf wetting may also lead to synergistic effects on plant function, such as when leaf water potential improvements lead to enhanced growth that does not occur when plant leaves are dry. We identify important reasons why leaf wetting can be critical for plant sciences to not only acknowledge, but also directly address, in future research. To do so, we provide a framework for the consideration of the relative balance of the various costs and benefits resulting from leaf wetting, as well as how this balance may be expected to change given projected scenarios of global climate change in the future.


This article was originally published in New Phytologist, volume 219, in 2018. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15307


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