19 Nov 2020

19 Nov 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal BG and is expected to appear here in due course.

Reviews and syntheses: Gaining insights into evapotranspiration partitioning with novel isotopic monitoring methods

Youri Rothfuss1,, Maria Quade1,, Nicolas Brüggemann1, Alexander Graf1, Harry Vereecken1, and Maren Dubbert2,3 Youri Rothfuss et al.
  • 1Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, Agrosphere Institute (IBG-3), Jülich, 52425, Germany
  • 2Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Institut für Forstwissenschaften, Fakultät für Umwelt und natürliche Ressourcen, Freiburg, 79110, Germany
  • 3Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei Berlin, Landscape Ecohydrology, Berlin, 12587, Germany
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Disentangling ecosystem evapotranspiration (ET) into evaporation (E) and transpiration (T) is of high relevance for a wide range of applications, from land surface modelling to policy making. Identifying and analysing the determinants of the ratio of T to ET (T / ET) for various land covers and uses, especially in view of climate change with increased frequency of extreme events (e.g., heatwaves and floods), is prerequisite for forecasting the hydroclimate of the future and tackling present issues, such as agricultural and irrigation practices.

A powerful partitioning method consists in determining the water stable isotopic compositions of ET, E, and T (δET, δE, and δT, respectively) from the water retrieved from the atmosphere, the soil, and the plant vascular tissues. The present work emphasises the challenges this particular method faces (e.g., the spatial and temporal representativeness of the T / ET estimates, the limitations of the models used and the sensitivities to their driving parameters) and the progress that needs to be made in light of the recent methodological developments. As our review is intended for a broader audience beyond the isotopic ecohydrological and micrometeorological communities, it also attempts to provide a thorough review of the ensemble of techniques used for determining δET, δE, and δT, and solving the partitioning equation for T / ET.

From the current state of research, we conclude that the most promising way forward to ET partitioning and capturing the sub-daily dynamics of T / ET is in making use of non-destructive online monitoring techniques of the stable isotopic composition of soil and xylem water. Effort should continue towards the application of the eddy covariance technique for high-frequency determination of δET at the field scale as well as the concomitant determination of δET, δE, and δT at high vertical resolution with field-deployable lift systems.

Youri Rothfuss et al.

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Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Youri Rothfuss et al.

Youri Rothfuss et al.


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Short summary
The partitioning of evapotranspiration into evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants is crucial for a wide range of parties, from farmers to policy makers. In this work, we focus on a particular partitioning method, based on the stable isotopic analysis of water. In particular, we aim at highlighting the challenges that this method is currently facing and, in light of recent methodological developments, propose ways forward for the isotopic partitioning community.