A multiple time scale modeling investigation of leaf water isotope enrichment in a temperate grassland ecosystem

  • Pei Wang
  • Tsutomu Yamanaka
  • Xiao-Yan Li
  • Xiuchen Wu
  • Bo Chen
  • Yaping Liu
  • Zhongwang Wei
  • Wenchao Ma
Original Article


Understanding the controls on temporal variation in plant leaf δ2H and δ18O values is important for understanding carbon–water dynamics of the biosphere and interpreting a wide range of proxies for past environments. Explaining the enrichment mechanisms under field conditions is challenging. To clarify the leaf water isotopic enrichment process at the ecosystem scale, four models with a range of complexities that were previously conducted at the leaf scale have been tested to simulate canopy foliage water in a multispecies grassland ecosystem. Although the exact importance of considering non-steady-state or/and isotopic diffusion in bulk leaf isotopic simulations has been reported in previous studies, our findings suggested that the steady-state assumption (SSA) is practically acceptable as a first-order approximation. The SSA two-pool model was the best option for reproducing seasonality of the bulk-leaf-water isotopic ratio for a grassland ecosystem. Relative humidity at canopy layer as the most controlling factor for canopy foliage water stable isotope composition because of its high sensitivity and variation. The results highlighted that canopy foliage water was a well-behaved property that was predictable for a multispecies grassland ecosystem at hourly or daily time-scales.


Foliage isotopic enrichment Relative humidity Numerical modeling Non-steady-state Advection–diffusion 

List of symbols


Canopy cluster parameter, dimensionless


The proportion of water associated with the evaporation site to the total leaf water, dimensionless


Relative humidity of the ambient air reference to TL, %


Relative humidity at the reference level, %


Soil-plant-atmosphere continuum with isotopic tracer


Leaf area index, m2 m−2


Downward long-wave radiation, W m−2


Scaled effective path length where isotopic diffusion occur, m


Air pressure at the reference level, hPa


Specific humidity at reference height, kg kg−1


Aerodynamic resistance above the vegetation canopy, s m−1


Aerodynamic resistance in the canopy air layer, s m−1


Canopy-scale boundary layer resistance, s m−1


Canopy-scale stomata resistance, s m−1


Leaf-scale stomata resistance, s m−1


Minimum stomata resistance, s m−1


Maximum stomata resistance, s m−1


Canopy-scale total resistance to water vapor and heat from canopy surface to reference height, s m−1


Soil-plant-atmosphere continuum


Downward short-wave radiation, W m−2


Sensitivity coefficient, dimensionless


Plant transpiration rate, mm h−1


Air temperature at the reference level, K


Leaf canopy temperature, K


Soil surface temperature at a depth Zsoil (m), °C


Wind speed at the reference level, m s−1


Wind speed inside the canopy, m s−1


Wind speed at vegetation height, m s−1


Vapor pressure deficit, kPa


Vapor pressure deficit reference to TL, kPa


Leaf water content (mass of water per unit ground area at the canopy scale), kg m−2


The height of temperature and humidity measurement, m


The height of wind speed measurement, m


Depth of ground heat flux measurement, m


Vegetation height, m


Equilibrium fractionation factor for water (> 1), dimensionless


Albedo of ground surface, dimensionless


Kinetic fractionation factor for water vapor (> 1), dimensionless


Kinetic fractionation factor for water vapor (> 1) at leaf temperature, dimensionless


Equilibrium fractionation factor for water (> 1) at leaf tempreture, dimensionless


Albedo of vegetation canopy, dimensionless


Isotope composition of sample water relative to a standard, ‰


Stable isotope composition of hydrogen in water, ‰


Stable isotope composition of oxygen in water, ‰


δ at evaporative site in leaf under SSA, ‰


δ at evaporative site in leaf under SSA, ‰


δ of bulk leaf water, ‰


δ at evaporative site in leaf, ‰


δ of water vapor, ‰


δ of xylem water, ‰


Isotopic equilibrium fractionation factor between liquid water and vapor, ‰


Isotopic kinetic fractionation factor between liquid water and vapor, ‰


Volumetric soil water content, m3 m−3


Thermal conductivity of surface soil, W m−1 K−1



The study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41671019, 41730854, and 91425301), under a project from State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology.

Supplementary material

11284_2018_1591_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (77 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 76 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource EcologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Natural Resources, Faculty of Geographical ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Joint Center for Global Change Studies (JCGCS)BeijingChina
  4. 4.Faculty of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of TsukubaTsukubaJapan
  5. 5.College of Resource Environment and TourismCapital Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  6. 6.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  7. 7.Center for Research in Isotopes and Environmental Dynamics (CRiED)University of TsukubaTsukubaJapan

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