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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 28 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

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

Lukas Kleine1,2, Doerthe Tetzlaff1,2, Aaron Smith2, Hailong Wang3, and Chris Soulsby4,2 Lukas Kleine et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Humboldt University of Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 16, 12489 Berlin, Germany
  • 2Department of Ecohydrology, Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany
  • 3School of Civil Engineering, Sun Yat-sen University, 135 Xin’gang Xi Road, Guangzhou, 510275, China
  • 4Northern Rivers Institute, University of Aberdeen, St. Mary’s Building, Kings College, Old Aberdeen, AB24 3UE, Scotland

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 stable isotopes to investigate the impacts of the 2018 drought on dominant soil-vegetation units of the mixed land-use Demnitzer Mill Creek (DMC, NE 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 stream flow and reduced crop yields demonstrated the failure of catchment water storage to support blue and green 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 grasslands 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 assemblages 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 build resilience to climate change.

Lukas Kleine et al.

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Lukas Kleine et al.

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Short summary
We investigated the effects of the drought 2018 on water partitioning in a lowland catchment; under grassland and forest in NE Germany. Conditions resulted in drying up of streams, yield losses and lower ground water levels. Oak trees continued to transpire during the drought. We used stable isotopes to assess the fluxes and ages of water. Sustainable use of resource water requires such understanding of ecohydrological water partitioning.
We investigated the effects of the drought 2018 on water partitioning in a lowland catchment;...