Advances in Earth Science ›› 2014, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (10): 1158-1166. doi: 10.11867/j.issn.1001-8166.2014.10.1158

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Application of Environmental Isotopes in Understanding Hydrological Processes of the Heihe River Basin

Yue Hu 1( ), Chuankun Liu 1, Yuehan Lu 2, Jie Liu 1, Chunmiao Zheng 1, 2( )   

  1. 1. Center for Water Research, College of Engineering, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    2. Department of Geological Science, the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487,USA
  • Online:2014-10-20 Published:2014-10-20

Yue Hu, Chuankun Liu, Yuehan Lu, Jie Liu, Chunmiao Zheng. Application of Environmental Isotopes in Understanding Hydrological Processes of the Heihe River Basin[J]. Advances in Earth Science, 2014, 29(10): 1158-1166.

Recent studies using environmental isotopes (2H, 3H, 14C, 18O, and 222Rn) were summarized to trace hydrological processes in the Heihe River Basin (HRB). Isotopic values from various types of waters (i.e., precipitation, surface water, and groundwater) at multiple spatiotemporal scales within the basin have been synthesized. The measurements of δD and δ18O values show that: precipitation in the upper-basin constitutes the primary source for surface water and shallow groundwater in the HRB; frequent surface water-shallow groundwater exchanges take place mainly in the middle HRB; and in the lower HRB, shallow groundwater is recharged primarily by river water while deep groundwater is largely isolated from modern recharge sources. This finding for the lower HRB is further confirmed by 14C and 3H measurements, which demonstrate that shallow, unconfined groundwater is younger than deep, confined groundwater. Future research should be focused more on increasing sampling resolution in time and space, utilizing multiple isotopes in tandem with other geochemical tracers for more quantitative research, as well as integrating results from isotope-based, geochemical investigations into construction and calibration of numerical models.

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