Lanzhou lies at the western Loess Plateau, China, and has a typical semi-arid temperate continental climate. Plants in this area are exposed to a prolonged dry season. In this study, we measured the stable isotopes of hydrogen (δD) and oxygen (δ18O) of the local precipitation, river water, soil water, plant xylem water, and leaf water at four sampling sites during the 2016 growing season. Our results showed that plants relied mostly on wet season precipitation at sites N1, N2, and N3 because this recharged the soil after the long dry season. Leaf phenology had a significant effect on evaporation distance (ED) value, and evergreen plants have adapted to water tapping from deep soil water sources during the dry season. The ED values of trees and shrubs were quite different in the dry season, indicating water competition among different plant species was mitigated due to water resource partitioning. Moreover, plants at site N4 relied on a water source admixed with river water throughout the whole growing season. The mean value of xylem-to-leaf water deuterium enrichment (ɛl/x) was −0.91 ± 0.36‰ over all plant species, seasons, and sampling sites. Plant species, leaf phenology, and seasons were found to be the primary factors influencing the ɛl/x, while growth form and elevation had negligible effects.

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