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Local and non-local controls on seasonal variations in water availability and use by riparian trees along a hydroclimatic gradient

Sargeant, Christopher I. and Singer, Michael Bliss ORCID: 2021. Local and non-local controls on seasonal variations in water availability and use by riparian trees along a hydroclimatic gradient. Environmental Research Letters 16 (8) , 084018. 10.1088/1748-9326/ac1294

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As global climate change continues to impact regional water cycles, we may expect further shifts in water availability to forests that create challenges for certain species and biomes. Lowland deciduous riparian forests are particularly vulnerable because tree species cannot migrate out of the stream corridor, and they rely on root zone water availability that is controlled by variations in both local climate conditions (e.g. precipitation, evaporation, and infiltration) and non-local hydroclimatic forcing (e.g. streamflow, snowmelt, recharge). To determine how the seasonal water source usage of riparian trees is controlled by local versus non-local variability in hydroclimatic regime, we reconstructed the seasonal oxygen isotope (δ18O) signature of water used by two riparian tree species with contrasting rooting depths, comprising ~800 δ18O tree-ring cellulose measurements from 12 tree-level decadal time-series at sub-annual resolution (six samples per year), along a strong hydroclimatic gradient within the Rhône River basin, SE France. These results were evaluated alongside δ18O measurements made from potential endmember water sources and independent hydroclimatic metrics. Thus we characterize the seasonal evolution of both potential water availability at distinct rooting depths and tree water source use and investigate the generalized riparian tree response to seasonal variations in local versus non-local hydroclimatic forcing over a decade. We show: (a) distinct seasonal water use between species, based on differential access to groundwater; (b) substantial source switching in both species based on evolving water availability; and (c) that riparian trees are more dependent on locally controlled soil moisture with distance downstream, creating increased vulnerability to locally increasing temperatures. We also find that deeply rooted trees in lowland riparian floodplains are potentially vulnerable to climate change because of their high dependence on water supply from mountains. This effect is more pronounced downstream, where seasonal water table decline may lead to loss of water required for deeply rooted trees.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Water Research Institute (WATER)
Additional Information: Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.
Publisher: IOP Publishing
ISSN: 1748-9326
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 July 2021
Date of Acceptance: 7 July 2021
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 15:22

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