The Ecohydrology lab focuses on watershed research, addressing the feedbacks among terrestrial vegetation, surface hydrological processes, and atmospheric conditions. We use a variety of techniques to examine the impact of changes in climate and land use on ecosystem health and water resources.

Lab Director Dr. Christina Tague

Climate change impacts on water resources and ecosystems

Warmer temperatures are likely to have significant consequences for water resources throughout the globe and many studies have shown that mountain environments are particularly sensitive to these changes. The broad goal of our research initiative is to assess the factors that determine how climate change impacts on hydrologic and ecologic processes vary within regional landscapes. We focus on climate change impacts on terrestrial water, including streamflow, groundwater and soil moisture - resources that support human water uses and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. How these water resources will respond to a changing climate varies within and between regions. 

Ecohydrology and Urbanization

Our groups seek to investigate linkages between drainage organization and ecological processes as controls on nitrogen cycling and streamflow. Urbanizing systems tend to radically alter drainage organization through impervious areas and construction of artificial flow networks as streets, sidewalks, constructed channels and storm sewers. Thus urban environments are an interesting place to explore how drainage organization influences ecosystem processes.  Further these changes have important implications for environmental managers – high rates of nitrogen export, flooding, reduced baseflows are of concern in most urban environments.  By improving our understanding of the role of drainage organization, we hope to offer insight into how urban design might mediate some of these issues. Our work is centered around two Long-term ecological research sites, one in Balitmore and one in Santa Barbara – and allow us to explore these issues in both a humid and semi-arid urban environment.

RHESSys Modeling Project

By representing key processes and interactions over space and time, spatially distributed process-based models offer a tool for predicting responses to changes in forcing conditions and for improving theoretical understanding of complex watershed behavior.  A core part of our research agenda is the development of models as tools to scale the results of field research in space and time and to estimate watershed responses landuse and climate change scenarios. Most of our model development work has been done through RHESSys. We focus on three main areas to improvement the model  a) model parameterization and representation of uncertainty b) model functionality and usability and c) science based evaluation and refinement of process representation in the model.