Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-540
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
05 Oct 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Speculations on the application of foliar 13C discrimination to reveal groundwater dependency of vegetation, provide estimates of root depth and rates of groundwater use
Rizwana Rumman, James Cleverly, Rachael H. Nolan, Tonantzin Tarin, and Derek Eamus Terrestrial Ecohydrology Research Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia
Abstract. Groundwater-dependent vegetation is globally distributed, having important ecological, social and economic value. Along with the groundwater resources upon which it depends, this vegetation is under increasing threat through excessive rates of groundwater extraction.

In this study we examined one shallow-rooted and two deep-rooted tree species at multiple sites along a naturally occurring gradient in depth-to-groundwater. We measured (i) stable isotope ratios of leaves (δ13C), xylem and groundwater (δ2H and δ18O); and (ii) leaf vein density. We established that foliar discrimination of 13C (∆13C) is a reliable indicator of groundwater use by vegetation and can also be used to estimate rooting depth. Through comparison with a continental-scale assessment of foliar ∆13C, we also estimated the upper limits to annual rates of groundwater use. We conclude that maximum rooting depth for both deep-rooted species ranged between 9.4 m and 11.2 m and that annual rates of groundwater use ranged ca 1400–1700 mm for Eucalyptus camaldulensis and 600–900 mm for Corymbia opaca. Several predictions about hydraulic and leaf traits arising from the conclusion that these two species made extensive use of groundwater were supported by additional studies of these species in central Australia.


Citation: Rumman, R., Cleverly, J., Nolan, R. H., Tarin, T., and Eamus, D.: Speculations on the application of foliar 13C discrimination to reveal groundwater dependency of vegetation, provide estimates of root depth and rates of groundwater use, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-540, in review, 2017.
Rizwana Rumman et al.
Rizwana Rumman et al.
Rizwana Rumman et al.

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Short summary
Groundwater is a significant water resource for humans and for groundwater dependent vegetation. Several challenges to managing both groundwater resources and dependent vegetation include defining the location of dependent vegetation, the rate of groundwater use and the depth of roots accessing groundwater. In this study we demonstrate a novel application of measurements of stable isotopes of carbon that can be used to identify the location, the rooting depth and the rate of groundwater use.
Groundwater is a significant water resource for humans and for groundwater dependent vegetation....
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