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Institute of Bio- and Geosciences

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Catchment hydrology

We use regular measurements of stable isotopes in rainfall, soil, streamwater and groundwater at several TERENO stations to study the process of runoff generation in forested catchments. The stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen (18O and 2H) are natural tracers for meteoric water as it travels on various pathways through catchments to become streamflow.

Based on the stable isotope measurements, we determine Transit Time Distributions (TTDs) to investigate the runoff response to precipitation input depending on the catchment’s characteristics (e.g. soil types, topography, landuse). Furthermore, we investigate the effects of forest canopy interception and deforestation on the transit time distributions. For shorter transit times, the fraction of young water can be derived by comparing the seasonal isotopic patterns in precipitation and streamflow, further enhancing the knowledge about hydrological catchment processes.

Measurement platforms

  • Rainfall and throughfall samplers (Schöneseiffen, Wüstebach, Rollesbroich, Erkensruhr, Im Brand)
  • Automatic streamwater sampler (Wüstebach, Erkensruhr, Rollesbroich)
  • On-site liquid-water isotope analyser at the outlet of the Erkensruhr catchment (in development)

MapMap of the Wüstebach and Erkensruhr catchments showing the throughfall stations

Picarro-PressefotoStable isotope analyser at the Erkensruhr station

Precipitation samplerAutomatic precipitation sampler at the Erkensruhr station


Stockinger, M.P., H.R. Bogena, A. Lücke, B. Diekkrüger, T. Cornelissen and H. Vereecken (2016): Tracer sampling frequency influences estimates of young water fraction and streamwater transit time distribution. J. Hydrol., doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.08.007

Stockinger, M.P., A. Lücke, J.J. McDonnell, B. Diekkrüger, H. Vereecken and H.R. Bogena (2015): Interception effects on stable isotope driven streamwater transit time estimates. Geophys. Res. Lett., 42: 5299–5308, doi: 10.1002/ 2015GL064622.

Stockinger, M., H. Bogena, A. Lücke, B. Diekkrüger, M. Weiler and H. Vereecken (2014): Seasonal Soil Moisture Patterns Control Transit Time Distributions in a Forested Headwater Catchment. Water Resour. Res., 50(6): 5270–5289, doi: 10.1002/2013WR014815.

Michael Stockinger
Phone: +49-2461-615484

Andreas Lücke
Phone: +49-2461-614590