The cloud forests in the mountains act as a mesh that helps to capture the water that is in the air, in the form of small particles in suspension; This accumulates and then begins to flow to the ground until it becomes water collected by streams, streams or rivers. How is this achieved? Biology undergraduate graduate Mariana Giraldo Aristizábal, supported by teachers from the same area, Dino Tuberquia Muñoz, Juliana Cardona Duque and Pablo Guzmán González, did an investigation on this event related to the water cycle, adding how plants collect the liquid and its importance.
The Rubiaceae families, to which coffee belongs, Cyclanthaceae, a group that includes the so-called iraca palm, a plant with which handicrafts are made, and Clusiaceae, to which the arbutus and the trees called chagualos or spoons belong, group the three species used in this research, which deals with the subject of functional traits, such as the hairs present on the leaves, technically known in Botany as trichomes, and which in some cases can help capture the mist, which accumulates when turns into water.
“The water particles are captured by the trichomes, and the leaves act as a network that traps the water that is added in drops; a drop does not flow, but many drops together can flow. What we tried to do was estimate that volume; what amount of mist water the evaluated plants collect ”, commented the professor of the Faculty of Sciences and Biotechnology, Dino Tuberquia Muñoz.
To do this, the researchers designed a cloud chamber to simulate the mist that passes through forests; this with the intention of checking the amount of water that is trapped in the leaves after five hours of subjecting them to the mist, until reaching 100% humidity levels.
The amount of water retained per square centimeter was higher for the Clusiaceae species, followed by Cyclanthaceae and Rubiaceae. For this study, the leaf area and the thickness of the cuticle (layer of wax that covers the leaf), of the species studied, are functional traits that seem to be related to the amount of mist water they trap. However, this study is still very preliminary and further investigation is required to reach stronger conclusions.
“This study brings us closer to knowing the importance of a cloud forest from ecosystem services, because they fulfill a very important function, which is the provision of water. From Alto de San Miguel the Medellín River is born, which is a main source of water, which is also used for power generation; these are very important services provided by forests ” , concluded Research Biologist Mariana Giraldo Aristizábal.