Current techniques to disentangle the total evaporative flux from the continental surface into a contribution evaporated from soils and canopy, or transpired by plants are under debate. Many isotope-based studies show that transpiration contributes generally more than 70% to the total moisture fluxes, while other isotope-independent techniques lead to considerably smaller transpiration fractions. This paper provides a perspective on isotope-based vs. non isotope-based partitioning studies. Some partitioning results from isotope-based methods, hydrometric measurements, and modeling are presented for comparison. Moreover, the methodological aspects of the analysis of partitioning are discussed including their limitations, and explanations of possible discrepancies between the methods are briefly discussed. We conclude that every method has its own uncertainties and these may lead to a high bias in the results, e.g. instruments inaccuracy and error, some assumptions used in analyses, parameters calibration. A number of comparison studies using isotope-based methods and hydrometric measurements in the same plants and climatic conditions are consistent within the errors, however, models tend to produce lower transpiration fractions. The relatively low transpiration fractions in current state of the art land surface models calls for a reassessment of the skill of the underlying model parameterizations. The scarcity of global evaporation data makes calibration and validation of global isotope-independent and isotope-based results difficult. However, isotope enabled land-surface and global climate modeling studies allow the evaluation of the parameterization of land surface models by comparing the computed water isotopologue signals in the atmosphere with the available remote sensing and flux-based data sets. Future studies that allow this evaluation could provide a better understanding of the hydrological cycle in vegetated regions.
SJ Sutanto, B van den Hurk, et al. A perspective on different approaches to determine the contribution of transpiration to the surface moisture fluxes
accepted, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2014, 11