Ecohydrological separation in wet, low energy northern environments? A preliminary assessment using different soil water extraction techniques

Josie Geris, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Jeffery McDonnell, Jim Anderson, Graeme Paton, Chris Soulsby

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Ecohydrological studies in seasonally dry climatic regions have revealed isotopic separation of the sources of water used by trees and those that generate stream flow, also referred to as the ‘two water worlds’ hypothesis. Here we investigated whether similar separation occurs in a wet, low energy northern (Latitude 57º) environment in Scotland. For two common soil types (Histosols and Podzols) at three soil depths, and at both forested (with Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)) and non-forested sites, we compared the stable isotope composition of soil water held at increasing soil water tensions. These were assessed by different soil water extraction techniques: Rhizon samplers (mobile water), centrifugation at different speeds (representing different tensions), and cryogenic extraction (bulk water). Sampling occurred during a relatively dry summer. Water that was held at increasing tensions appeared more depleted than more mobile water, consistent with older (winter) precipitation. This pattern was independent of soil type, vegetation cover, and time during the growing season, although there was a slight tendency towards less separation with soil depth. Nevertheless, soil waters in this generally wet, low energy environment exhibited only minor evaporative enrichment, limited to the upper soil profile only. Furthermore, stream water showed no deviation from the local meteoric water line. Preliminary sampling for tree xylem water suggested uptake of evaporated soil water from the near surface soil horizons (upper 10 cm) where fine root densities are concentrated. For Histosols in particular, tree water appeared lagged in its isotopic composition compared to the soil water time series. Although more work is needed to fully test the ‘two water worlds’ hypothesis, our initial analyses did not provide clear evidence to support this in wet, low energy northern environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5139-5152
Number of pages14
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number25
Early online date29 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2015


  • Isotopes
  • Water Storage
  • Soil Water Extraction
  • Tree Water Use


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