EGU21-3085, updated on 19 Aug 2023
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Plants, vital players in the terrestrial water cycle

Marie-Claire ten Veldhuis1, Tom van den Berg2, Martine van der Ploeg3, Elias Kaiser4, Satadal Dutta5, Arnold Moene6, Sylvere Vialet-Chabrand4, and Tim van Emmerik3
Marie-Claire ten Veldhuis et al.
  • 1Delft University of Technology, Water Resources, Delft, Netherlands (
  • 2Twente University, Integrated Devices and Systems (IDS), Enschede, Netherlands
  • 3Wageningen University & Research, Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen, Netherlands
  • 4Wageningen University & Research, Horticulture and Product Physiology, Wageningen, Netherlands
  • 5Delft University of Technology, Precision and Microsystems Engineering, Delft, Netherlands
  • 6Wageningen University & Research, Meteorology & Air Quality, Wageningen, Netherlands

Plant transpiration accounts for about half of all terrestrial evaporation (Jasechko et al., 2013). Plants need water for many vital functions including nutrient uptake, growth, maintenance of cell turgor pressure and leaf cooling. Due to the regulation of water transport by stomata in the leaves, plants lose 97% of the water they take via their roots, to the atmosphere. They can be viewed as transpiration-powered pumps on the interface between the soil and atmosphere.

Measuring plant-water dynamics is essential to gain better insight into their role in the terrestrial water cycle and plant productivity. It can be measured at different levels of integration, from the single cell micro-scale to the ecosystem macro-scale, on time scales from minutes to months. In this contribution, we give an overview of state-of-the-art techniques for transpiration measurement and highlight several promising innovations for monitoring plant-water relations. Some of the techniques we will cover include stomata imaging by microscopy, gas exchange for stomatal conductance and transpiration monitoring, thermometry for water stress detection, sap flow monitoring, hyperspectral imaging, ultrasound spectroscopy, accelerometry, scintillometry and satellite-remote sensing.

Outlook: To fully assess water transport within the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, a variety of techniques is required to monitor environmental variables in combination with biological responses at different scales. Yet this is not sufficient: to truly solve for spatial heterogeneity as well as temporal variability, dense network sampling is needed.

In PLANTENNA ( a team of electronics, precision and microsystems engineers together with plant and environmental scientists develop and implement innovative (3D-)sensor networks that measure plant and environmental parameters at high resolution and low cost. Our main challenge for in-situ sensor autonomy (“plug and forget”) is energy: we want the sensor nodes to be hyper-efficient and rely fully on (miniaturised) energy-harvesting.


Jasechko, S., Sharp, Z. D., Gibson, J. J., Birks, S. J., Yi, Y., & Fawcett, P. J. (2013). Terrestrial water fluxes dominated by transpiration. Nature, 496(7445), 347-350.
Plantenna: "Internet of Plants". (n.d.).


How to cite: ten Veldhuis, M.-C., van den Berg, T., van der Ploeg, M., Kaiser, E., Dutta, S., Moene, A., Vialet-Chabrand, S., and van Emmerik, T.: Plants, vital players in the terrestrial water cycle, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3085,, 2021.


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