Using water stable isotopes to understand evaporation, moisture stress, and re-wetting in catchment forest and grassland soils of the summer drought of 2018

Lukas Kleine* (Corresponding Author), Doerthe Tetzlaff, Aaron Smith, Hailong Wang, Chris Soulsby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In drought-sensitive lowland catchments, ecohydrological feedbacks to climatic anomalies can give valuable insights into ecosystem functioning in the context of alarming climate change projections. However, the dynamic influences of vegetation on spatio-temporal processes in water cycling in the critical zone of catchments are not yet fully understood. We used water stable isotopes to investigate the impacts of the 2018 drought on dominant soil-vegetation units of the mixed land use Demnitz Millcreek (DMC, north-eastern Germany) catchment (66 km2). The isotope sampling was carried out in conjunction with hydroclimatic, soil, groundwater, and vegetation monitoring. Drying soils, falling groundwater levels, cessation of streamflow, and reduced crop yields demonstrated the failure of catchment water storage to support "blue"(groundwater recharge and stream discharge) and "green"(evapotranspiration) water fluxes. We further conducted monthly bulk soil water isotope sampling to assess the spatio-temporal dynamics of water soil storage under forest and grassland vegetation. Forest soils were drier than the grassland, mainly due to higher interception and transpiration losses. However, the forest soils also had more freely draining shallow layers and were dominated by rapid young (age < 2 months) water fluxes after rainfall events. The grassland soils were more retentive and dominated by older water (age > 2 months), though the lack of deep percolation produced water ages > 1 year under forest. We found the displacement of any "drought signal"within the soil profile limited to the isotopic signatures and no displacement or "memory effect"in d-excess over the monthly time step, indicating rapid mixing of new rainfall. Our findings suggest that contrasting soil-vegetation communities have distinct impacts on ecohydrological partitioning and water ages in the sub-surface. Such insights will be invaluable for developing sustainable land management strategies appropriate to water availability and building resilience to climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3737-3752
Number of pages16
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Volume24
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Using water stable isotopes to understand evaporation, moisture stress, and re-wetting in catchment forest and grassland soils of the summer drought of 2018'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this