04 Oct 2022
 | 04 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Quantifying river water contributions to riparian trees along a losing river: Lessons from stable isotopes and iteration method

Yue Li, Ying Ma, Xianfang Song, and Qian Zhang

Abstract. River water plays a critical role in riparian plant water use and riparian ecosystem restoration along losing rivers (rivers losing flow into underlying groundwater) under climate warming. How to quantify the contributions of river water to riparian plants under different water tables and the related responses of plant water use efficiency is a great challenge. In this study, experiments of stable isotopes (δ2H, δ18O and 222Rn) in different waters and leaf δ13C were conducted for riparian deep-rooted Salix babylonica (L.) during dry year (2019) and wet year (2021) along the Chaobai River in Beijing, China. The MixSIAR model in combination with an iteration method were proposed to quantify the proportional river water contribution (RWC) to riparian S. babylonica and its correlations with the depth of water table (WTD) as well as leaf δ13C. Results showed that riparian S. babylonica took up deep water (in 80−170 cm soil layer and groundwater) by 56.5 ± 10.8 %. River water that recharged riparian deep water was an indirect water source and contributed 20.3 % of water to riparian trees nearby the losing river. Significantly increasing river water acquisitions (by 7.0 %) but decreasing leaf δ13C (by −2.0 ‰) of riparian trees were observed as the WTD changed from 2.7 m in 2019 to 1.7 m in 2021 (p < 0.05). A short residence time (no more than 0.28 days) of groundwater indicated that there was rapid and frequent river recharge to riparian groundwater in 2021. It was found that the RWC to riparian S. babylonica was negatively correlated with the WTD but positively related to the leaf δ13C in linear functions (p = 0.000). The rising water table would stimulate riparian trees to maximize transpiration water consumptions and show a profligate water use strategy with increasing water extraction from the losing river. This study provides critical insights into understanding the mechanism of water cycle in Groundwater-Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum, managing water resources and riparian afforestation along losing rivers.

Yue Li et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-327', Anonymous Referee #1, 17 Oct 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2022-327', Remy Schoppach, 16 Nov 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Ying Ma, 08 Jan 2023

Yue Li et al.


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Short summary
An iteration method together with multiple stable isotopes and MixSIAR model was proposed to quantify the river water contribution (RWC) to riparian deep-rooted S. babylonica nearby a losing river. River water could indirectly contribute 20.3 % of water to riparian trees. River recharged riparian groundwater rapidly with a short groundwater residence time (no more than 0.28 days). The leaf δ13C negatively correlated with RWC but positively related to the depth of water table in linear functions.