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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Technical note: Conservative storage of water vapour - practical in situ sampling of stable isotopes in tree stems

Magh, Ruth-Kristina; Gralher, Benjamin; Herbstritt, Barbara; Kubert, Angelika; Lim, Hyungwoo; Lundmark, Tomas; Marshall, John

Abstract

Using water-stable isotopes to track plant water uptake or soil water processes has become an invaluable tool in ecohydrology and physiological ecology. Recent studies have shown that laser absorption spectroscopy can measure equilibrated water vapour well enough to support inference of liquid-stable isotope composition of plant or soil water, on-site and in real-time. However, current in situ systems require the presence of an instrument in the field. Here we tested, first in the lab and then in the field, a method for equilibrating, collecting, storing, and finally analysing water vapour for its isotopic composition that does not require an instrument in the field. We developed a vapour storage vial system (VSVS) that relies on in situ sampling into crimp neck vials with a double-coated cap using a pump and a flow metre powered through a small battery and measuring the samples in a laboratory. All components are inexpensive and commercially available. We tested the system's ability to store the isotopic composition of its contents by sampling a range of water vapour of known isotopic compositions (from -95 parts per thousand to +1700 parts per thousand for delta H-2) and measuring the isotopic composition after different storage periods. Samples for the field trial were taken in a boreal forest in northern Sweden. The isotopic composition was maintained to within 0.6 parts per thousand to 4.4 parts per thousand for delta H-2 and 0.6 parts per thousand to 0.8 parts per thousand for delta O-18 for natural-abundance samples. Although H-2-enriched samples showed greater uncertainty, they were sufficient to quantify label amounts. We detected a small change in the isotopic composition of the sample after a long storage period, but it was correctable by linear regression models. We observed the same trend for the samples obtained in the field trial for delta O-18 but observed higher variation in delta H-2 than in the lab trial. Our method combines the best of two worlds, sampling many trees in situ while measuring at high precision in the laboratory. This provides the ecohydrology community with a tool that is not only cost efficient but also easy to use.

Published in

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
2022, volume: 26, number: 13, pages: 3573-3587
Publisher: COPERNICUS GESELLSCHAFT MBH

Authors' information

Magh, Ruth
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Magh, Ruth-Kristina
Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
Gralher, Benjamin
Albert Ludwigs Univ Freiburg
Herbstritt, Barbara
Albert Ludwigs Univ Freiburg
Kubert, Angelika
Albert Ludwigs Univ Freiburg
Kubert, Angelika
University of Helsinki
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management

UKÄ Subject classification

Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-26-3573-2022

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/118351