Connecting precipitation inputs and soil flow pathways to stream water in contrasting boreal catchments

A. Peralta-Tapia*, R. A. Sponseller, D. Tetzlaff, C. Soulsby, H. Laudon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Stable isotopes of water are one of the most widely used tools to track the pathways of precipitation inputs to streams. In the past, soils have often been treated as black-boxes through which precipitation is routed to streams without much consideration of how, when, and where water is transported along soil and groundwater flow paths. Here, we use time series of stable isotopes (18O) in precipitation, soil/groundwater, and stream water to evaluate how landscape structure and heterogeneity influence seasonal hydrological patterns characteristic of boreal headwater catchments. To do this, we collected water throughout a full year at three adjacent catchments draining forest, mire, and mire/lake ecosystems within the Krycklan Experimental Catchment of northern Sweden. Isotope time series from forest and mire groundwater piezometers showed spatial and temporal heterogeneity in the dominant hydrologic flow pathways connecting precipitation to stream flow at different sites. The isotopic signature of stream water suggested strong connections to the dominant landscape elements within each catchment. These connections translated into greater temporal variability in the isotopic response of streams draining lake and wetland patches, and a much more attenuated pattern in the forest-dominated catchment. Overall, seasonal changes in the isotopic composition of streams and groundwater illustrate how differences in landscape structure result in variable hydrological patterns in the boreal landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3546-3555
Number of pages10
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number16
Early online date4 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

The Krycklan Catchment Study (KCS) is funded by SITES (Swedish Science Foundation, VR), ForWater (Formas), Future Forest (Mistra), the Kempe Foundation and SKB.


  • Boreal forest
  • Mire
  • Nordic catchments
  • Stable isotopes


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