Critical Zone Storage Controls on the Water Ages of Ecohydrological Outputs

S. Kuppel, D. Tetzlaff, M. P. Maneta, C. Soulsby

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34 Scopus citations


Spatially explicit knowledge of the origins of water resources for ecosystems and rivers is challenging when using tracer data alone. We use simulations from a spatially distributed model calibrated by extensive ecohydrological data sets in a small, energy-limited catchment, where hillslope-riparian dynamics are broadly representative of humid boreal headwater catchments that are experiencing rapid environmental transition. We hypothesize that in addition to wetness status, landscape heterogeneity modulates the water pathways that sustain ecosystem function and streamflows. Simulations show that catchment storage inversely controls stream water ages year-round, but only during the drier seasons for transpiration and soil evaporation. The ages of these evaporative outputs depend much less on wetness status in the oft-saturated riparian soils than on the freely draining hillslopes that subsidize them. This work highlights the need to consider local dynamics and time-changing lateral heterogeneities when interpreting the ages, and thus the vulnerability, of water resources feeding streams and ecosystems in landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GL088897
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 28 2020


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