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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-600
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-600
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: review article 28 Nov 2019

Submitted as: review article | 28 Nov 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

X Water Worlds and how to investigate them: A review and future perspective on in situ measurements of water stable isotopes in soils and plants

Matthias Beyer1,2 and Maren Dubbert3,4 Matthias Beyer and Maren Dubbert
  • 1Institute for Geoecology, TechnischeUniversität Braunschweig, Langer Kamp 19c, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
  • 2German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), 30655 Hannover, Germany
  • 3Ecosystem Physiology, University Freiburg, Georges-Köhler-Allee 53, 79110 Freiburg
  • 4IGB Berlin, Landscape Ecohydrology, Müggelseedamm 301, 12587 Berlin

Abstract. The number of ecohydrological studies involving water stable isotopes has been increasing steadily due to technological (i.e. field deployable laser spectroscopy and cheaper instruments) and methodological (i.e. tracer approaches or improvements in root water uptake models) advances in recent years. This enables researchers from a broad scientific background to incorporate water isotope-based methods into their studies.

Several isotope effects are currently not fully understood, but essential when investigating root water uptake depths of vegetation and disentangle isotope processes at the soil-vegetation-atmosphere continuum. In particular different viewpoints exist on i) extraction methods for soil and plant water and methodological artefacts potentially introduced by them; ii) the pools of water measured with those methods and iii) spatiotemporal issues related with water stable isotope research.

In situ methods have been proposed as an innovative and necessary way to address these issues and are required in order to disentangle isotope effects and take them into account when studying root water uptake depths of plants and for studying soil-plant-atmosphere interaction based on water stable isotopes.

Herein, we review the current status of in situ measurements of water stable isotopes in soils and plants, point out current issues and highlight potential for future research. Moreover, we put a strong focus and incorporate practical aspects into this review. Finally, we propose an integrated methodology for measuring both soil and plant water isotopes when carrying out studies at the soil-vegetation-atmosphere interface.

For all in situ methods, extreme care needs to be taken particularly during set-up in order to obtain reliable data. In situ methods for soils are well established. For transpiration, reliable methods also exist but are not common in ecohydrological field studies due to the required effort. Little attention has been payed to in situ xylem water isotope measurements. Research needs to focus on improving and further developing those methods.

There is a need for a consistent and combined (soils and plants) methodology for ecohydrological studies. Such systems should be designed and adapted to the environment to be studied. We further conclude that many studies currently might not rely on in situ methods extensively because of the technical difficulty. Hence, future research needs to aim on developing a simplified approach that provides a reasonable trade-off between practicability and precision/accuracy.

Matthias Beyer and Maren Dubbert
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Matthias Beyer and Maren Dubbert
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Short summary
Water isotopes are a scientific tool that can be used to identify sources of water and answer questions such as From which soil depths do plants take up water? – which are highly relevant under changing climatic conditions. In the past, the measurement of water isotopes required tremendous efforts. In the last decade methods have advanced and can now be applied in the field. Herein, we review the current status of direct field measurements of water isotopes and discuss future applications.
Water isotopes are a scientific tool that can be used to identify sources of water and answer...
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