Plant and Soil

, Volume 430, Issue 1–2, pp 307–328 | Cite as

Comparison of the partitioning of evapotranspiration – numerical modeling with different isotopic models using various kinetic fractionation coefficients

  • Yonge Zhang
  • Xinxiao YuEmail author
  • Lihua Chen
  • Guodong Jia
Regular Article



In the context of a warming climate and dry conditions, aggravating water shortages, research on partitioning total evapotranspiration (ET) into soil evaporation (E) and plant transpiration (T) is needed.

Methods and aims

Recently, using the oxygen isotope ratio as a tracer has proved to be a valuable way to better partition ET. In this study, we carefully considered the process of heavy water fractionation during the transpiration process, and specifically, we modified the kinetic fractionation coefficient (αk2) of transpiration, based on previous formulations used to estimate it.


Our results show that, for the hourly and daily mean data set, both the isotopic–steady–state (ISS) and non–steady–state (NSS) assumptions for δ18O of leaf water (δL,b) provided a good fit with observed δL,b when using the modified αk2. In contrast, using αk2 values traditionally assigned led to significant deviations from observed δL,b (p < 0.05), potentially influencing ET partitioning results. On diurnal time scales, the percent contribution of T to total ET (FT) is sensitive to different model assumptions and different formulations to estimate αk2. The modeled FT, assuming NSS conditions and using the modified αk2 value, led to the best agreement with observed values. In contrast, on longer time scales (days), using the ISS assumption to partition ET is adequate, as the NSS assumption could introduce more complexities and uncertainties.


Our study demonstrates that the stable isotope technique is a promising utility for quantitatively partitioning ET. To more accurately estimate FT, we also call on a better description of the nature of αk2 of transpiration.


Evapotranspiration Non–steady–state Oxygen isotopes Partitioning Transpiration 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.41430747), the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (No.41401013), and the Beijing Municipal Education Commission (CEFF–PXM2018_014207_000024).

Author contributions

Yonge Zhang designed and performed the experiment. Yonge Zhang analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. Lihua Chen, Guodong Jia contributed significantly to data analysis, manuscript preparation and practice of experiment. Xinxiao Yu revised the paper and finished the submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of State Forestry Administration on Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina

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