Using stable isotopes to determine sources of evaporated water to the atmosphere in the Amazon basin

Luiz Antonio Martinelli, Reynaldo Luiz Victoria, Leonel Silveira Lobo Sternberg, Aristides Ribeiro, Marcelo Zacharias Moreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The return of water in vapor form from the land to the atmosphere, via plant transpiration and evaporation, is fundamental for the maintenance of the regional water cycle in the Amazon basin. Whereas transpiration, the dominant process, has the extensive vegetation cover as a large single source, evaporation can have several sources, and their relative importance and location are poorly known. The isotopic composition (δ18O and δD) of water from various sources was used to see whether or not specific sources of water vapor to the atmosphere could be determined. It is well established that natural waters fall on a line called the meteoric water line (MWL; the regression of δ18O x δD), with slope equal to eight and an intercept equal to ten. When a water body loses water via evaporation the slope become smaller than eight, typically 5-6. We estimated the slope of the regression of δ18O x δD for several potential sources. We analyzed 1273 samples: 500 of rainfall, 409 of river water, 134 of lake water, 164 of soil water, 40 of throughfall and stemflow water, and 26 of shallow ground-water. We found that large rivers and lakes are likely contributors of evaporated water to the atmosphere. However, as they cover only a small area of the basin, other sources are needed. Probably, evaporated water originates from several small sources that were not detected by the isotopic composition of our data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-204
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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