Wasserwirtschaft und Hydrosystemmodellierung

MOSAIC - Modelling surface and groundwater with isotopes in urban catchments

Project description

As society increasingly demands higher environmental quality in urban areas for both human and ecological health, urban water resource systems need to be increasingly well understood and managed. The new requirement for urban planners to build resilience in the face of anticipated climate change only adds further urgency to this already pressing research need. Despite this, the hydrology of urban areas – that is, the processes of how water is routed and stored in this hybrid natural and technical system - is surprisingly poorly understood (Ehleringer et al. 2016).

Over the past two decades, isotope tracers have emerged as powerful integrating tools that have transformed our understanding of the hydrological cycle across spatial and temporal scales (Leibundgut et al. 2009). Isotopes are so effective in this regard because the relative abundance of stable isotopes (2H/1H and 18O/16O ratios) in water molecules act as “fingerprints” of water’s history in the hydrological cycle. This is due to the different behaviour of lighter isotopes (1H and 16O), which are preferentially selected in evaporation and melting, but selected against in condensation and precipitation.

The central thesis of the MOSAIC project is that stable water isotopes have the potential to transform our understanding of the hydrology and water resource systems of Berlin. The project focuses research around three research questions:

  1. What are the isotopic characteristics of Berlin’s surface and subsurface waters?
  2. How do different components of the urban landscape affect the isotopic composition of surface and ground waters?
  3. How can this be used to understand how contrasting urban areas affect the partitioning of water flow paths, hydrological connectivity and travel times?

The project also aims to integrate modelling and field studies to critically assess the role of green spaces and the urban “critical zone” with regard to urban ecohydrological partitioning and the mitigation of the urban heat island effect. The project is financed through an Einstein Visiting Fellowship granted to Prof. Dr. Chris Soulsby.

Projekt head:

Prof. Dr. Chris Soulsby

Scientific assistant:

Christian Marx, M.Sc.

Project period:

July 2019 - December 2021


Einstein Foundation Berlin

Project description

Simulation Results