Fog drip maintains dry season ecological function in a California coastal pine forest
Fog drip is recognized as an important source of water for many ecosystems that often harbor a disproportionate fraction of endemic species. Characterizing and quantifying the ecological importance of fog drip in these ecosystems requires a range of approaches. We report on a multi‐faceted study of Bishop pine (Pinus muricata D. Don) along a coastal‐inland transect on an island off Southern California. Hourly sampling included micrometeorology, sap flux, and soil moisture. Monthly measurements included changes in tree girth, plant water stress, and isotopic values of fogwater, rainwater, and xylem water. These data show that summertime fog drip clearly affected soil moisture and maintained aspects of tree function, including leaf water relations, sap flux dynamics, and growth rates. Although water from fog drip to the soil surface was occasionally taken up by pine trees, as quantified with isotopic measurements and a Bayesian mixing model, this utilization of fog drip was highly variable in space and time. The proportion of fogwater inferred to have been used is also much less than has been demonstrated in more mesic coastal forest ecosystems using isotopic methods. These results thus suggest high ecosystem sensitivity to even moderate amounts of fog drip, a finding with important implications as climate change differentially affects fog and rain patterns.
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