Plant and Soil

, Volume 376, Issue 1–2, pp 327–335 | Cite as

Soil water uptake by trees using water stable isotopes (δ2H and δ18O)−a method test regarding soil moisture, texture and carbonate

  • Meik MeißnerEmail author
  • Michael Köhler
  • Luitgard Schwendenmann
  • Dirk Hölscher
  • Jens Dyckmans
Regular Article



Stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen are often used to determine plant water uptake depths. We investigated whether and to what extend soil moisture, clay content, and soil calcium carbonate influences the water isotopic composition.


In the laboratory, dried soil samples varying in clay content were rewetted with different amounts of water of known isotopic composition. Further, we removed soil carbonate from a subset of samples prior to rewetting. Water was extracted from samples via cryogenic vacuum extraction and analysed by mass spectrometry.


The isotopic composition of extracted soil water was similarly depleted in both 18O and 2H with decreasing soil moisture and increasing clay and carbonate content. Soil carbonate changed the δ18O composition while δ2H was not affected.


Our results indicate that soil carbonate can cause artifacts for 18O isotopic composition of soil water. At low soil moisture and high carbonate content this could lead to conflicting results for δ18O and δ2H in plant water uptake studies.


Isotopes Water Soil Clay Carbonate 



This study was conducted within the framework of the Research Training Group “Graduiertenkolleg 1086: The role of biodiversity for biogeochemical cycles and biotic interactions in temperate deciduous forests”, funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation). We thank Christina Langenbruch and Anja Guckland for providing data on soil properties and Reinhard Langel for excellent technical assistance.

Supplementary material

11104_2013_1970_MOESM1_ESM.doc (138 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 138 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meik Meißner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Köhler
    • 1
  • Luitgard Schwendenmann
    • 2
  • Dirk Hölscher
    • 1
  • Jens Dyckmans
    • 3
  1. 1.Tropical Silviculture and Forest EcologyGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.School of EnvironmentThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Centre for Stable Isotope Research and AnalysisGeorg-August-Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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