(Dept. 1) Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry

Kernthemen Department 1

The interactions within and between green water (in terrestrial systems) and blue water (lakes, rivers, and subsurface aquifers) affect in complex ways the habitats for organisms and the reactive transport of abiotic components. Aquatic and terrestrial systems are coupled at multiple spatio-temporal scales. The overall goal of the Department of Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry is to understand the ecohydrological and biogeochemical processes of these connected land- and waterscapes in natural, rural and urban environments. Therefore, our research projects focus on the following core topics:

  • Interactions of  landscape-freshwater ecosystems
  • Physical and biogeochemical drivers under global change
  • Water security in disturbed and urban systems

In our research, we integrate different modelling approaches with data collected in field studies, in large-scale manipulation studies,  by long-term monitoring and in laboratory experiments. We study ecohydrological and biogeochemical processes using a variety of tracer techniques, particularly stable isotopes, and by measuring naturally dissolved solutes, conservative geogenic ions, trace organic matter, and nutrients. In doing so, we combine basic research with application aspects and aim to record and model the effects of climate and land use changes. With its laboratory infrastructure and expertise in the fields of inorganic and organic analysis as well as isotope measurement, the department performs a central function for the entire institute. To achieve our research goal, we combine our professional expertise from the research disciplines of hydrology, geochemistry, aquatic physics, ecology, environmental engineering, and geography.

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Department members

Selected publications

April 2024
Geophysical Research Letters. - 51(2024)6, Art. e2023GL107753

Increases in Water Balance-Derived Catchment Evapotranspiration in Germany During 1970s–2000s Turning Into Decreases Over the Last Two Decades, Despite Uncertainties

G. Bruno; D. Duethmann

The authors studied variations in evapotranspiration from precipitation and streamflow data for 461 German catchments from 1964–2019, by considering also changes in water storage and precipitation uncertainty. Evapotranspiration increased over 1970s–2000s, while it stabilized or even tended to decrease afterwards, and these variations were related with those in precipitation and solar radiation.

April 2024
Journal of Hydrology. - 634(2024), Art. 131023

Hydrological model skills change with drought severity; insights from multi-variable evaluation

Giulia Bruno; Francesco Avanzi; Lorenzo Alfieri; Andrea Libertino; Simone Gabellani; Doris Duethmann

The study investigated the ability of the Continuum hydrological model in simulating the water cycle in the Po river basin (Italy) during droughts of increasing severity. The simulation of streamflow during the severe 2022 drought was characterized by comparatively lower performances than during moderate events, most likely due to challenges in representing high human influences via irrigation.

March 2024
WIREs Water. - X(2024)X, Art. e1727

Towards a common methodological framework for the sampling, extraction, and isotopic analysis of water in the Critical Zone to study vegetation water use

Natalie Ceperley; Teresa E. Gimeno; Suzanne R. Jacobs; Matthias Beyer; Maren Dubbert; Benjamin Fischer; Josie Geris; Ladislav Holko; Angelika Kübert; Samuel Le Gall; Marco M. Lehmann; Pilar Llorens; Cody Millar; Daniele Penna; Iván Prieto; Jesse Radolinski; Francesca Scandellari; Michael Stockinger; Christine Stumpp; Dörthe Tetzlaff; Ilja van Meerveld; Christiane Werner; Oktay Yildiz; Giulia Zuecco; Adrià Barbeta; Natalie Orlowski; Youri Rothfuss

Quantifying the sources for plant water uptake and their dynamics is still a challenge in ecohydrology. As isotopic analyses becomes more widespread, common methodological frameworks are required. This paper provides guidelines for (1) sampling soil and plant material for isotopic analysis, (2) methods for laboratory or in situ water extraction, and (3) measurements of isotopic composition.

March 2024
Journal of Hydrology. - 633(2024), Art. 131020

Assessing the impact of drought on water cycling in urban trees via in-situ isotopic monitoring of plant xylem water

Ann-Marie Ring; Dörthe Tetzlaff; Maren Dubbert; Jonas Freymüller; Christopher Soulsby

The authors conducted innovative in-situ monitoring of stable water isotopes in plant xylem water over an entire growing period including a major drought to assess how urban trees react to changing water supply. They also detected fractionation in plant water. Urban trees rely on deep water supply and internal storage during drought.

January 2024
Nature Communications. - 15(2024), Art. 187

Universal microbial reworking of dissolved organic matter along environmental gradients

Erika C. Freeman; Erik J. S. Emilson; Thorsten Dittmar; Lucas P. P. Braga; Caroline E. Emilson; Tobias Goldhammer; Christine Martineau; Gabriel Singer; Andrew J. Tanentzap

To investigate how dissolved organic matter is degraded in soil and aquatic ecosystems by microorganisms, the authors analyzed its molecular diversity in relation to microbial communities and physicochemical conditions. Changes in DOM composition were consistent across different environments – as degradation progressed, DOM became dominated by universal, hard-to-break-down compounds. 

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