Ecohydrologic separation of water between trees and streams in a Mediterranean climate

J. Renee Brooks, Holly R. Barnard, Rob Coulombe, Jeffery J. McDonnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

559 Citations (Scopus)


Water movement in upland humid watersheds from the soil surface to the stream is often described using the concept of translatory ¿ow which assumes that water entering the soil as precipitation displaces the water that was present
previously, pushing it deeper into the soil and eventually into the stream
. Within this framework, water at any soil depth is well mixed and plants extract the same water that eventually enters the stream. Here we present water-isotope
data from various pools throughout a small watershed in the Cascade Mountains, Oregon, USA. Our data imply that a pool of tightly bound water that is retained in the soil and used by trees does not participate in translatory ¿ow, mix with mobile water or enter the stream. Instead, water from initial rainfall events after rainless summers is locked into small pores with low matric potential until transpiration empties these pores during following dry summers.Winter rainfall does not displace this tightly bound water. As transpiration and storm¿ow are
out of phase in the Mediterranean climate of our study site, two separate sets of water bodies with different isotopic characteristics exist in trees and streams. We conclude that complete mixing of water within the soil cannot be assumed for
similar hydroclimatic regimes as has been done in the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-104
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number2
Early online date20 Dec 2009
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecohydrologic separation of water between trees and streams in a Mediterranean climate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this