The science of water is Hydrology.

The interconnection of water with ecosystems and organisms is captured by the science of Ecohydrology.

Ecohydrology can be defined as the study of the “hydrologic mechanisms that underlie climate-soil-vegetation dynamics [and] ecologic patterns and processes.”[i]

The overarching question pursued by the WSU Ecohydrology Research Group asks:

How do spatial and temporal variations in water flows relate to the structure, function, and stability of plant communities, aquatic ecosystems, and the human environment?

We currently pursue answers to this question in three major areas:

  • Ecohydrology of River and Wetland Systems
    • Examples: Salt Marshes, Tidal Rivers, Delta Island Ecogeomorphology
  • Ecohydrology of Forest Disturbance
    • Examples: Post-fire Recovery, Montane Beaver Ponds
  • Urban Ecohydrology:
    • Examples: Green Stormwater Management and Water Quality, Urban Warming and Evapotranspiration Cooling

We also conduct basic research on the hydraulics of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, environmental biophysics modeling, and methodological developments.

We use field studies, numerical modeling, remote sensing analysis, and laboratory experimentation to answer compelling and important research questions from plant and pore to planetary scales. We are always open to new and exciting ideas, collaborations, and methods.

Water is our lifeblood, the circulatory system of Earth. Surface water and groundwater flows distribute nutrients from sources to users, provide the matrix for aquatic life, and carry away waste products, to the benefit or detriment of those downstream. Water vapor and its cousin, precipitation, connect land and atmosphere; their vertical movements are essential to the thermodynamics of Earth’s climate system. Water itself, simple H2O, is the most basic resource for ecosystems, human life, and civilization, with rapidly mortal consequences if interrupted. And yet, this most critical resource is non-uniformly distributed. Physics dictates that water flows only when there is greater water potential at one location and lesser at an adjacent location: life-giving waters flow precisely because they are unequally distributed around the planet. This unequal distribution, when combined with the tendencies of human nature, can also lead to inequities in ecological or societal access to this most basic of fluids.
Better understanding these processes and connections is the goal of this research group.

[i] Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. (2000), Water Resources Research, 36(1), 3–9, doi:10.1029/1999WR900210.