Kathy Steppe's Lab

Featured projects (1)

Investigating the impact of foliar water uptake on tree hydraulics with a predominant focus on beech (Fagus sylvatica L.)

Featured research (1)

Foliar water uptake (FWU) is a mechanism that enables plants to acquire water from the atmosphere through their leaves. As mangroves live in a saline sediment water environment, the mechanism of FWU might be of vital importance to acquire freshwater and grow. The goal of this study was to assess the FWU capacity of six different mangrove species belonging to four genera using a series of submersion experiments in which the leaf mass increase was measured and expressed per unit leaf area. The foliar water uptake capacity differed between species with the highest and lowest average water uptake in Avicennia marina (Forssk.) Vierh. (1.52 ± 0.48 mg H2O cm−2) and Bruguiera gymnorhiza (L.) Lam. (0.13 ± 0.06 mg H2O cm−2), respectively. Salt-excreting species showed a higher FWU capacity than non-excreting species. Moreover, A. marina, a salt-excreting species, showed a distinct leaf anatomical trait, i.e., trichomes, which were not observed in the other species and might be involved in the water absorption process. The storage of leaves in moist Ziplock bags prior to measurement caused leaf water uptake to already occur during transport to the field station, which proportionately increased the leaf water potential (A. marina: −0.31 ± 0.13 MPa and B. gymnorhiza: −2.70 ± 0.27 MPa). This increase should be considered when performing best practice leaf water potential measurements but did not affect the quantification of FWU capacity because of the water potential gradient between a leaf and the surrounding water during submersion. Our results highlight the differences that exist in FWU capacity between species residing in the same area and growing under the same environmental conditions. This comparative study therefore enhances our understanding of mangrove species’ functioning.

Lab head

Members (11)

Roberto Salomón
  • Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Linus De Roo
  • Ghent University
Michiel Hubeau
  • Ghent University
Jonas Coussement
  • Ghent University
Jonathan Vermeiren
  • Ghent University
Bart Van de Wal
  • Ghent University
Lauriks Fran
  • University of Antwerp
Jens Mincke
  • Ghent University

Alumni (1)

Jeroen Schreel
  • Florida International University