Lindsey E. Langs


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Quantifying relative contributions of source waters from a subalpine wetland to downstream water bodies
Julia M. Hathaway, Cherie J. Westbrook, Rebecca C. Rooney, Richard M. Petrone, Lindsey E. Langs
Hydrological Processes, Volume 36, Issue 9

Subalpine regions of the Canadian Rocky Mountains are expected to experience continued changes in hydrometeorological processes due to anthropogenically mediated climate warming. As a result, fresh water supplies are at risk as snowmelt periods occur earlier in the year, and glaciers contribute less annual meltwater, resulting in longer growing seasons and greater reliance on rainfall to generate runoff. In such environments, wetlands are potentially important components that control runoff processes, but due to their location and harsh climates their hydrology is not well studied. We used stable water isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (δ2H and δ18O), coupled with MixSIAR, a Bayesian mixing model, to understand relative source water contributions and mixing within Burstall Wetland, a subalpine wetland (1900 m a.s.l.), and the larger Burstall Valley. These results were combined with climate data from the Burstall Valley to understand hydrometeorological controls on Burstall Wetland source water dynamics over spatiotemporal timescales. Our results show that the seasonal isotopic patterns within Burstall Wetland reflect greater reliance on snowmelt in spring and rainfall in the peak and post-growing season periods. We found a substantial degree of mixing between precipitation (rain and snow) and stored waters in the landscape, especially during the pre-growing season. These findings suggest that longer growing seasons in subalpine snow-dominated landscapes put wetlands at risk of significant water loss and increased evaporation rates potentially leading to periods of reduced runoff during the peak- growing season and in extreme cases, wetland dry out.

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Using Stable Water Isotopes to Analyze Spatiotemporal Variability and Hydrometeorological Forcing in Mountain Valley Wetlands
Julia M. Hathaway, Richard M. Petrone, Cherie J. Westbrook, Rebecca C. Rooney, Lindsey E. Langs
Water, Volume 14, Issue 11

Wetlands in Montane and Subalpine Subregions are increasingly recognized as important hydrologic features that support ecosystem function. However, it is currently not clear how climate trends will impact wetland hydrological processes (e.g., evaporative fluxes) across spatiotemporal scales. Therefore, identifying the factors that influence wetland hydrologic response to climate change is an important step in understanding the sensitivity of these ecosystems to environmental change. We used stable water isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (δ2H and δ18O), coupled with climate data, to determine the spatiotemporal variability in isotopic signatures of wetland source waters and understand the influence of evaporative fluxes on wetlands in the Kananaskis Valley. Our results show that the primary runoff generation mechanism changes throughout the growing season resulting in considerable mixing in wetland surface waters. We found that evaporative fluxes increased with decreasing elevation and that isotopic values became further removed from meteoric water lines during the late peak- and into the post-growing seasons. These findings suggest that a change in the water balance in favor of enhanced evaporation (due to a warmer and longer summer season than present) will not only lead to greater water loss from the wetlands themselves but may also reduce the water inputs from their catchments.


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Subalpine forest water use behaviour and evapotranspiration during two hydrologically contrasting growing seasons in the Canadian Rockies
Lindsey E. Langs, Richard M. Petrone, John W. Pomeroy
Hydrological Processes, Volume 35, Issue 5

Hydrological processes in mountain headwater basins are changing as climate and vegetation change. Interactions between hydrological processes and subalpine forest ecological function are important to mountain water supplies due to their control on evapotranspiration (ET). Improved understanding of the sensitivity of these interactions to seasonal and interannual changes in snowmelt and summer rainfall is needed as these interactions can impact forest growth, succession, health, and susceptibility to wildfire. To better understand this sensitivity, this research examined ET for a sub-alpine forest in the Canadian Rockies over two contrasting growing seasons and quantified the contribution of transpiration (T) from the younger tree population to overall stand ET. The younger population was focused on to permit examination of trees that have grown under the effect of recent climate change and will contribute to treeline migration, and subalpine forest densification and succession. Research sites were located at Fortress Mountain Research Basin, Kananaskis, Alberta, where the subalpine forest examined is composed of Abies lasiocarpa (Subalpine fir) and Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce). Seasonal changes in water availability from snowmelt, precipitation, soil moisture reserves yielded stark differences in T and ET between 2016 and 2017. ET was higher in the drier year (2017), which had late snowmelt and lower summer rainfall than in the wetter year (2016) that had lower snowmelt and a rainy summer, highlighting the importance of spring snowmelt recharge of soil moisture. However, stand T of the younger trees (73% of forest population) was greater (64 mm) in 2016 (275 mm summer rainfall) than 2017 (39 mm T, 147 mm summer rainfall), and appears to be sensitive to soil moisture decreases in fall, which are largely a function of summer period rainfall. Relationships between subalpine forest water use and different growing season and antecedent (snowmelt period) hydrological conditions clarify the interactions between forest water use and alpine hydrology, which can lead to better anticipation of the hydrological response of subalpine forest-dominated basins to climate variability and change.


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A <scp> δ <sup>18</sup> O </scp> and <scp> δ <sup>2</sup> H </scp> stable water isotope analysis of subalpine forest water sources under seasonal and hydrological stress in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Lindsey E. Langs, Richard M. Petrone, John W. Pomeroy
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 26

Subalpine forests are hydrologically important to the function and health of mountain basins. Identifying the specific water sources and the proportions used by subalpine forests is necessary to understand potential impacts to these forests under a changing climate. The recent “Two Water Worlds” hypothesis suggests that trees can favour tightly bound soil water instead of readily available free-flowing soil water. Little is known about the specific sources of water used by subalpine trees Abies lasiocarpa (Subalpine fir) and Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. In this study, stable water isotope (δ18O and δ2H) samples were obtained from S. fir and Engelmann spruce trees at three points of the growing season in combination with water sources available at time of sampling (snow, vadose zone water, saturated zone water, precipitation). Using the Bayesian Mixing Model, MixSIAR, relative source water proportions were calculated. In the drought summer examined, there was a net loss of water via evapotranspiration from the system. Results highlighted the importance of tightly vadose zone, or bound soil water, to subalpine forests, providing insights of future health under sustained years of drought and net loss in summer growing seasons. This work builds upon concepts from the “Two Water Worlds” hypothesis, showing that subalpine trees can draw from different water sources depending on season and availability. In our case, water use was largely driven by a tension gradient within the soil allowing trees to utilize vadose zone water and saturated zone water at differing points of the growing season.