The transmissive critical zone under land use and environmental pressures: understanding the karst hydrology-biogeochemical coupling for sustainable management


Our karst system critical zone research will provide a scientific evidence-base to inform management of these ecohydrologically-sensitive, culturally-important landscapes, ensuring the security of their crucial ecosystem services of provisioning (water supply; food production) and regulating (water quality; diffuse pollution attenuation). To do this, UK and Chinese scientists are collaborating in a joint research programme with NERC and NSFC funding of £0.75M and £1.5M respectively. Our research objectives are fully-aligned with all three call key objectives:

CZO call Objective 1: To understand the importance of spatial variation and scale (from field to landscape) on the ability of water (and soil) within the critical zone (CZ) to perform their multiple functions;

Research Objective 1: We will undertake research to support the spatial and temporal delineation of the complex karst hydrological and biogeochemical coupling with surface land use to understand how this interaction controls water and nutrient availability (for forest and crops) and downstream water quality.

CZO Objective 2: Development of modelling approaches and improvement of model skill, with the integration of wider disciplines, in the prediction of resilience;

Research Objective 2: Conceptualising understanding from research objective 1 in an integrated modelling framework, functioning at multiple scales, across different land use and catchment characteristics.

CZO Objective 3: Within the context of environmental stressors within China (e.g. erosion, pollutants, extreme weather, changing agricultural practices, and water availability), seek to understand and improve the resilience of water to perturbations;

Research Objective 3: Use outputs from this modelling framework to develop approaches to land use management that are most likely to succeed in building resilience in the ecosystem services and so retaining natural capital of this karst system under changing environmental drivers.


ESHH role within the China CZO project

The project is led by the University of Glasgow (PI Susan Waldron), linking with the University of Stirling  (David Oliver) and University of Aberdeen (Chris Soulsby). A NERC IAPETUS DTP Studentship, awarded to Sarah Buckerfield, complements this NERC Research Project. Sarah is based at University of Stirling with a supervisory team that links Stirling (David Oliver, Richard Quilliam) and Glasgow (Susan Waldron, Larissa Naylor).