The 18O ecohydrology of a grassland ecosystem - predictions and observations

Regina T. Hirl*, Hans Schnyder, Ulrike Ostler, Rudi Schäufele, Inga Schleip, Sylvia H. Vetter, Karl Auerswald, Juan C. Baca Cabrera, Lisa Wingate, Margaret M. Barbour, Jérôme Ogée

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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The oxygen isotope composition ('18O) of leaf water ('18Oleaf) is an important determinant of environmental and physiological information found in biological archives, but the system-scale understanding of the propagation of the '18O of rain through soil and xylem water to '18Oleaf has not been verified for grassland. Here we report a unique and comprehensive dataset of fortnightly '18O observations in soil, stem and leaf waters made over seven growing seasons in a temperate, drought-prone, mixed-species grassland. Using the ecohydrology part of a physically based, 18O-enabled soil-plant-atmosphere transfer model (MuSICA), we evaluated our ability to predict the dynamics of '18O in soil water, the depth of water uptake, and the effects of soil and atmospheric moisture on 18O enrichment of leaf water ("18Oleaf) in this ecosystem. The model accurately predicted the '18O dynamics of the different ecosystem water pools, suggesting that the model generated realistic predictions of the vertical distribution of soil water and root water uptake dynamics. Observations and model predictions indicated that water uptake occurred predominantly from shallow (<20cm) soil depths throughout dry and wet periods in all years, presumably due (at least in part) to the effects of high grazing pressure on root system turnover and placement. "18Oleaf responded to both soil and atmospheric moisture contents and was best described in terms of constant proportions of unenriched and evaporatively enriched water (two-pool model). The good agreement between model predictions and observations is remarkable as model parameters describing the relevant physical features or functional relationships of soil and vegetation were held constant with one single value for the entire mixed-species ecosystem..

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2581-2600
Number of pages20
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This research has been supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant no. SCHN 557/9-1), the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (grant no. ANR-13-BS06-0005), and the European Commission (grant no. SOLCA 338264).

This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in the framework of the Open Access Publishing Program.


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