The role of dew and radiation fog inputs in the local water cycling of a temperate grassland during dry spells in central Europe

Li, Yafei; Aemisegger, Franziska; Riedl, Andreas; Buchmann, Nina; Eugster, Werner

During dry spells, non-rainfall water (hereafter NRW) mostly formed from dew and fog potentially plays an increasingly important role in temperate grassland ecosystems with ongoing global warming. Dew and radiation fog occur in combination during clear and calm nights, and both use ambient water vapor as a source. Research on the combined mechanisms involved in NRW inputs to ecosystems is rare, and distillation of water vapor from the soil as a NRW input pathway for dew formation has hardly been studied. Furthermore, eddy covariance (EC) measurements are associated with large uncertainties on clear, calm nights when dew and radiation fog occur. The aim of this paper is thus to use stable isotopes as tracers to investigate the different NRW input pathways into a temperate Swiss grassland at Chamau during dry spells in summer 2018. Stable isotopes provide additional information on the pathways from water vapor to liquid water (dew and fog) that cannot be measured otherwise. We measured the isotopic composition (inline-formulaδ18O, inline-formulaδ2H, and inline-formula M3inlinescrollmathml d = italic δ normal 2 chem normal H - normal 8 italic δ normal 18 chem normal O 91pt14ptsvg-formulamathimgcb7d6e3910497be1b7bf47acd5acf30e hess-25-2617-2021-ie00001.svg91pt14pthess-25-2617-2021-ie00001.png ) of ambient water vapor, NRW droplets on leaf surfaces, and soil moisture and combined them with EC and meteorological observations during one dew-only and two combined dew and radiation fog events. The ambient water vapor inline-formulad was found to be strongly linked with local surface relative humidity (inline-formula M5inlinescrollmathml r = - normal 0.94 49pt10ptsvg-formulamathimg41ea3119083f6f1a62e415c1c28b8ff5 hess-25-2617-2021-ie00002.svg49pt10pthess-25-2617-2021-ie00002.png ), highlighting the dominant role of local moisture as a source for ambient water vapor in the synoptic context of the studied dry spells. Detailed observations of the temporal evolution of the ambient water vapor and foliage NRW isotopic signals suggest two different NRW input pathways: (1) the downward pathway through the condensation of ambient water vapor and (2) the upward pathway through the distillation of water vapor from soil onto foliage. We employed a simple two-end-member mixing model using inline-formulaδ18O and inline-formulaδ2H to quantify the NRW inputs from these two different sources. With this approach, we found that distillation contributed 9 %–42 % to the total foliage NRW, which compares well with estimates derived from a near-surface vertical temperature gradient method proposed by Monteith in 1957. The dew and radiation fog potentially produced 0.17–0.54 mm dinline-formula−1 NRW gain on foliage, thereby constituting a non-negligible water flux to the canopy, as compared to the evapotranspiration of 2.7 mm dinline-formula−1. Our results thus underline the importance of NRW inputs to temperate grasslands during dry spells and reveal the complexity of the local water cycle in such conditions, including different pathways of dew and radiation fog water inputs.

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Li, Yafei / Aemisegger, Franziska / Riedl, Andreas / et al: The role of dew and radiation fog inputs in the local water cycling of a temperate grassland during dry spells in central Europe. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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