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Fractions of Different Young Water Ages are Sensitive to Discharge and Land Use - an Integrated Analysis of Water Age Metrics under Varying Hydrological Conditions for Contrasting Sub-Catchments in Central Germany
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  • Christina Franziska Radtke,
  • Stefanie Lutz,
  • Christin Müller,
  • Ralf Merz,
  • Rohini Kumar,
  • Kay Knöller
Christina Franziska Radtke
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Stefanie Lutz
Utrecht University: Universiteit Utrecht
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Christin Müller
UFZ Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig-Halle
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Ralf Merz
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
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Rohini Kumar
UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
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Kay Knöller
UFZ Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig-Halle
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With ongoing climate change and more frequent high flows and droughts, it becomes inevitable to understand potentially altered catchment processes under changing climatic conditions. Water age metrics such as median transit times and young water fractions are useful variables to understand the process dynamics of catchments and the release of solutes to the streams. This study, based on extensive high-frequency stable isotope data, unravels the changing contribution of different water ages to stream water in six heterogeneous catchments, located in the Harz mountains and the adjacent northern lowlands in Central Germany. Fractions of water up to 7 days old (Fyw7), comparable with water from recent precipitation events, and fractions of water up to 60 days old (Fyw60) were simulated by the tran-SAS model. As Fyw7 and Fyw60 were sensitive to discharge, an integrated analysis of high and low flows was conducted. This revealed an increasing contribution of young water for increasing discharge, with larger contributions of young water during wet spells compared to dry spells. Considering the seasons, young water fractions increased in summer and autumn, which indicates higher contributions of young water after prolonged dry conditions. Moreover, the relationship between catchment characteristics and the water age metrics revealed an increasing amount of young water with increasing agricultural area, while the amount of young water decreased with increasing grassland proportion. By combining transit time modelling with high-frequency isotopic signatures in contrasting sub-catchments in Central Germany, our study extends the understanding of hydrological processes under high and low flow conditions.
04 Aug 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
07 Aug 2023Published in ESS Open Archive