EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Tracing dew and fog water inputs into temperate grassland using stable water isotopes

Yafei Li1, Andreas Riedl1, Franziska Aemisegger2, Nina Buchmann1, and Werner Eugster1
Yafei Li et al.
  • 1Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland (
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland

Dew and fog have proven to be essential water sources for plants across many Earth’s ecosystems. Under climate change with more frequent no-rain days expected in summer, the inputs of dew and fog on short-statured temperate grassland species are expected to become more important as an additional water source. In 2018, Switzerland experienced the driest April to August period of the last five decades. Our research using stable water isotopes investigates how dew and ground radiation fog affected Swiss grasslands in the extreme summer 2018 based on three intensive observation nights of dew and fog. Focusing on an intensively managed grassland located at a valley bottom close to Chamau (CH-CHA) in Switzerland, we measured the isotopic composition (δ2H and δ18O) of near-surface atmospheric water vapour with a cavity ring-down spectrometer (Picarro L2130-i), and the isotopic composition of the droplets on the leaf surface. Combining the water isotopes with eddy-covariance and meteorological measurements, we analysed the isotope dynamics and fractionation during these three dew and fog nights. Our results indicated that during dew and fog formation, water vapour δ2H and δ18O gradually decreased under saturated and even slightly supersaturated conditions, but fluctuated under unsaturated conditions. The isotopes of the sampled droplets on the leaf surfaces deviated from the expected isotopic composition based on water vapour under the equilibrium fractionation assumption. During dew and ground radiation fog nights, condensed water was a mix from two sources, atmospheric water vapour and vapour flux from the ground to the foliage. Condensation processes were accompanied by the evaporation from leaf surfaces and the diffusion in the supersaturated layer above the leaf surfaces. This caused non-equilibrium fractionation of water isotopes, seen in the fluctuation of water vapour isotopes and in the observed deviation in the sampled droplets from equilibrium liquids of water vapour. Thus, the isotopic approach is complementary to the often employed micro-lysimetric approach and helps to understand the dynamics and the sources of water vapour during dew and ground radiation fog formation.

How to cite: Li, Y., Riedl, A., Aemisegger, F., Buchmann, N., and Eugster, W.: Tracing dew and fog water inputs into temperate grassland using stable water isotopes, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13628,, 2020.

Display materials

Display file

Comments on the display material

AC: Author Comment | CC: Community Comment | Report abuse

Display material version 1 – uploaded on 05 May 2020, no comments