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Tracing the water sources of trees and streams: isotopic analysis in a small pre-alpine catchment


Penna, Daniele; Oliviero, Omar; Assendelft, Rick; Zuecco, Giulia; van Meerveld, H J; Anfodillo, Tommaso; Carraro, Vinicio; Borga, Marco; Dalla Fontana, Giancarlo (2013). Tracing the water sources of trees and streams: isotopic analysis in a small pre-alpine catchment. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 19:106-112.

Abstract

We used a dual stable isotope approach (2H and 18O) and electrical conductivity data in combination with hydrometric measurements to trace water fluxes in the soil, stream and trees in a small forested watershed in the Italian Pre-Alps. The aim was to understand the main water sources for plant transpiration and runoff generation. The data were collected between events and during rainfall events in order to assess the sources of tree uptake under different conditions. Sampling and analysis are still continuing but preliminary results show that the isotopic composition of tree water was similar to soil water and rain water but statistically different from streamflow and groundwater. This suggests that trees used predominantly soil water, rather than groundwater, during the study period. No marked difference was found between the isotopic composition of the sap of trees in the riparian zone and the sap of trees on the hillslope. However, during dry conditions sap in riparian trees slowly became more similar to deep soil water and groundwater, indicating a possible switch in water uptake from shallow to deeper soil water. In contrast to the quick response of the stream, the composition of tree water did not change immediately after a rainfall event, even though the composition of shallow soil water had changed, which may be caused by storage of water in the tree and the low vapor pressure deficit that suppressed transpiration after the rainfall event. Future work will be carried out to monitor the seasonal variability in water uptake and its response to rainfall events in more detail.

We used a dual stable isotope approach (2H and 18O) and electrical conductivity data in combination with hydrometric measurements to trace water fluxes in the soil, stream and trees in a small forested watershed in the Italian Pre-Alps. The aim was to understand the main water sources for plant transpiration and runoff generation. The data were collected between events and during rainfall events in order to assess the sources of tree uptake under different conditions. Sampling and analysis are still continuing but preliminary results show that the isotopic composition of tree water was similar to soil water and rain water but statistically different from streamflow and groundwater. This suggests that trees used predominantly soil water, rather than groundwater, during the study period. No marked difference was found between the isotopic composition of the sap of trees in the riparian zone and the sap of trees on the hillslope. However, during dry conditions sap in riparian trees slowly became more similar to deep soil water and groundwater, indicating a possible switch in water uptake from shallow to deeper soil water. In contrast to the quick response of the stream, the composition of tree water did not change immediately after a rainfall event, even though the composition of shallow soil water had changed, which may be caused by storage of water in the tree and the low vapor pressure deficit that suppressed transpiration after the rainfall event. Future work will be carried out to monitor the seasonal variability in water uptake and its response to rainfall events in more detail.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:13 Jan 2016 16:20
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:53
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1878-0296
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proenv.2013.06.012
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-119098

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