For climate models that use paleo-environment data to predict future climate change, tree-ring isotope variations are one important archive for the reconstruction of paleo-hydrological conditions. Due to the rather complicated pathway of water, starting from precipitation until its uptake by trees and the final incorporation of its components into tree-ring cellulose, a closer inspection of seasonal variations of tree water uptake is important. In this study, branch and needle samples of two pine species (Pinus pinaster and Pinus nigra subsp. laricio) and several water compartments (precipitation, creek, soil) were sampled over a two-year period and analyzed for the temporal variations of their oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope ratios (δ18O and δ2H) at five sites over an elevation gradient from sea level to around 1600 m a.s.l. on the Mediterranean island of Corsica (France). A new model was established to disentangle temporal relationships of source water uptake of trees. It uses a calculation method that incorporates the two processes mostly expected to affect source water composition: mixing of waters and evaporation. The model results showed that the temporal offset from precipitation to water uptake is not constant and varies with elevation and season. Overall, seasonal source water origin was shown to be dominated by precipitation from autumn and spring. While autumn precipitation was a more important water source for trees growing at mid- (~800-1000 m a.s.l) and high-elevation (~1600 m a.s.l.) sites, trees at coastal sites mostly took up water from late winter and spring. These findings show that predicted decreases in precipitation amounts during the wet season in the Mediterranean can have strong impacts on water availability for pine trees, especially at higher elevations.
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