Chris Soulsby


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Stable isotopes of water reveal differences in plant – soil water relationships across northern environments
Doerthe Tetzlaff, J. M. Buttle, Sean K. Carey, Matthew J. Kohn, Hjalmar Laudon, J. P. McNamara, Aaron Smith, Matthias Sprenger, Chris Soulsby
Hydrological Processes, Volume 35, Issue 1

We compared stable isotopes of water in plant stem (xylem) water and soil collected over a complete growing season from five well-known long-term study sites in northern/cold regions. These spanned a decreasing temperature gradient from Bruntland Burn (Scotland), Dorset (Canadian Shield), Dry Creek (USA), Krycklan (Sweden), to Wolf Creek (northern Canada). Xylem water was isotopically depleted compared to soil waters, most notably for deuterium. The degree to which potential soil water sources could explain the isotopic composition of xylem water was assessed quantitatively using overlapping polygons to enclose respective data sets when plotted in dual isotope space. At most sites isotopes in xylem water from angiosperms showed a strong overlap with soil water; this was not the case for gymnosperms. In most cases, xylem water composition on a given sampling day could be better explained if soil water composition was considered over longer antecedent periods spanning many months. Xylem water at most sites was usually most dissimilar to soil water in drier summer months, although sites differed in the sequence of change. Open questions remain on why a significant proportion of isotopically depleted water in plant xylem cannot be explained by soil water sources, particularly for gymnosperms. It is recommended that future research focuses on the potential for fractionation to affect water uptake at the soil-root interface, both through effects of exchange between the vapour and liquid phases of soil water and the effects of mycorrhizal interactions. Additionally, in cold regions, evaporation and diffusion of xylem water in winter may be an important process.


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Spatially-distributed tracer-aided runoff modelling and dynamics ofstorage and water ages in a permafrost-influenced catchment
Thea Ilaria Piovano, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Sean K. Carey, Nadine J. Shatilla, Aaron Smith, Chris Soulsby

Abstract. Permafrost strongly controls hydrological processes in cold regions, and our understanding of how changes in seasonal and perennial frozen ground disposition and linked storage dynamics affects runoff generation processes remains limited. Storage dynamics and water redistribution are influenced by the seasonal variability and spatial heterogeneity of frozen ground, snow accumulation and melt. Stable isotopes provide a potentially useful technique to quantify the dynamics of water sources, flow paths and ages; yet few studies have employed isotope data in permafrost-influenced catchments. Here, we applied the conceptual model STARR (Spatially distributed Tracer-Aided Rainfall-Runoff model), which facilitates fully distributed simulations of hydrological storage dynamics and runoff processes, isotopic composition and water ages. We adapted this model to a subarctic catchment in Yukon Territory, Canada, with a time-variable implementation of field capacity to include the influence of thaw dynamics. A multi-criteria calibration based on stream flow, snow water equivalent and isotopes was applied to three years of data. The integration of isotope data in the spatially distributed model provided the basis to quantify spatio-temporal dynamics of water storage and ages, emphasizing the importance of thaw layer dynamics in mixing and damping the melt signal. By using the model conceptualisation of spatially and temporally variant storage, this study demonstrates the ability of tracer-aided modelling to capture thaw layer dynamics that cause mixing and damping of the isotopic melt signal.

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Climate-phenology-hydrology interactions in northern high latitudes: Assessing the value of remote sensing data in catchment ecohydrological studies
Hailong Wang, Doerthe Tetzlaff, J. M. Buttle, Sean K. Carey, Hjalmar Laudon, J. P. McNamara, Christopher Spence, Chris Soulsby
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 656

We assessed the hydrological implications of climate effects on vegetation phenology in northern environments by fusion of data from remote-sensing and local catchment monitoring. Studies using satellite data have shown earlier and later dates for the start (SOS) and end of growing seasons (EOS), respectively, in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 3 decades. However, estimates of the change greatly depend on the satellite data utilized. Validation with experimental data on climate-vegetation-hydrology interactions requires long-term observations of multiple variables which are rare and usually restricted to small catchments. In this study, we used two NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) products (at ~25 & 0.5 km spatial resolutions) to infer SOS and EOS for six northern catchments, and then investigated the likely climate impacts on phenology change and consequent effects on catchment water yield, using both assimilated data (GLDAS: global land data assimilation system) and direct catchment observations. The major findings are: (1) The assimilated air temperature compared well with catchment observations (regression slopes and R2 close to 1), whereas underestimations of summer rainstorms resulted in overall underestimations of precipitation (regression slopes of 0.3-0.7, R2 ≥ 0.46). (2) The two NDVI products inferred different vegetation phenology characteristics. (3) Increased mean pre-season temperature significantly influenced the advance of SOS and delay of EOS. The precipitation influence was weaker, but delayed SOS corresponding to increased pre-season precipitation at most sites can be related to later snow melting. (4) Decreased catchment streamflow over the last 15 years could be related to the advance in SOS and extension of growing seasons. Greater streamflow reductions in the cold sites than the warm ones imply stronger climate warming impacts on vegetation and hydrology in colder northerly environments. The methods used in this study have potential for better understanding interactions between vegetation, climate and hydrology in observation-scarce regions.


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Storage, mixing, and fluxes of water in the critical zone across northern environments inferred by stable isotopes of soil water
Matthias Sprenger, Doerthe Tetzlaff, J. M. Buttle, Sean K. Carey, J. P. McNamara, Hjalmar Laudon, Nadine J. Shatilla, Chris Soulsby
Hydrological Processes, Volume 32, Issue 12

We thank Audrey Innes for isotope analysis at University of Aberdeen for Bruntland Burn and Krycklan sites, Johannes Tiwari (SLU) for isotope sampling in Krycklan, Pernilla Lofvenius (SLU) for providing PET data for Krycklan (via SITES), and Jeff McDonnell and Kim Janzen (University of Saskatchewan) for soil water isotope analysis for the Dorset and Wolf Creek sites. The Krycklan part was funded by the KAW Branch-Point project. We acknowledge the funding from the European Research Council (ERC, project GA 335910 VeWa). We thank the Editor and three anonymous reviewers for their critical comments during the peer-review process.

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Using stable isotopes to estimate travel times in a data-sparse Arctic catchment: Challenges and possible solutions
Doerthe Tetzlaff, Thea Ilaria Piovano, Pertti Ala‐aho, Aaron Smith, Sean K. Carey, Philip Marsh, Philip A. Wookey, Lorna E. Street, Chris Soulsby
Hydrological Processes, Volume 32, Issue 12

Use of isotopes to quantify the temporal dynamics of the transformation of precipitation into run-off has revealed fundamental new insights into catchment flow paths and mixing processes that influence biogeochemical transport. However, catchments underlain by permafrost have received little attention in isotope-based studies, despite their global importance in terms of rapid environmental change. These high-latitude regions offer limited access for data collection during critical periods (e.g., early phases of snowmelt). Additionally, spatio-temporal variable freeze-thaw cycles, together with the development of an active layer, have a time variant influence on catchment hydrology. All of these characteristics make the application of traditional transit time estimation approaches challenging. We describe an isotope-based study undertaken to provide a preliminary assessment of travel times at Siksik Creek in the western Canadian Arctic. We adopted a model-data fusion approach to estimate the volumes and isotopic characteristics of snowpack and meltwater. Using samples collected in the spring/summer, we characterize the isotopic composition of summer rainfall, melt from snow, soil water, and stream water. In addition, soil moisture dynamics and the temporal evolution of the active layer profile were monitored. First approximations of transit times were estimated for soil and streamwater compositions using lumped convolution integral models and temporally variable inputs including snowmelt, ice thaw, and summer rainfall. Comparing transit time estimates using a variety of inputs revealed that transit time was best estimated using all available inflows (i.e., snowmelt, soil ice thaw, and rainfall). Early spring transit times were short, dominated by snowmelt and soil ice thaw and limited catchment storage when soils are predominantly frozen. However, significant and increasing mixing with water in the active layer during the summer resulted in more damped steam water variation and longer mean travel times (~1.5 years). The study has also highlighted key data needs to better constrain travel time estimates in permafrost catchments.