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Scale appropriate modelling: from mechanisms to management

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Paul Quinn, Dr Caspar HewettORCiD, Dr Aidan Doyle


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Whilst pure research is encouraged within the hydrological sciences, hydrologists must play an active part in Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM). IRBM is the most pressing requirement for environmental sustainability, which is floundering with poor applications and stifled by uncertainty anxieties. It is argued that hydrologists have the most appropriate range of skills to supply modelling and GIS tools to aid IRBM. Even though hydrology is undergoing a painful period of facing up to the realities of uncertainty and scaling problems, this is proving to have practical benefits for realistic IRBM. There is now a need for a range of scale appropriate tools, tempered by predictive uncertainty, that can lead to hydrology playing a key role in mapping out good practice in what to measure and monitor, how to characterise the land and how to represent the impacts of land use change practically. However, this will not occur if hydrologist do not fully engage with the needs of IRBM and the need to get closer to both policy makers and end users. Here a range of models and decision support tools are outlined as an example of how to address the difficult problem of nutrient pollution. The model types, the data they require and the assumptions that allow their application are all tied to scale. Physically-based models are run at the plot scale or the research scale (1m2-100m2) where cause and effect can be studied in detail. Physically-based models are then used to create very long time series of flow and nutrient outputs. Meta models are then used to mimic the outputs of the physically-based models. Here Minimum Information Requirement models are used at the catchment scale (1,000-10,000km2) that require a minimum number of parameters that are physically interpretable that can be linked to an existing GIS land classification scheme. Sitting above this scale are regional or national policy makers who are supplied with simple Decision Support Matrices that express our current levels of knowledge, our degree of uncertainty and a range of possible management practices that can help reduce environmental problems. Once policies are established, the simple ‘message’ and ‘mandate’ for land use change is communicated back to catchment planners and end users through flow visualisation, educational and management tools. A high resolution flow analysis tool is presented here that shows how pollution and runoff can be reduced on farmers’ fields. Finally, a period of engagement with end users and local policy makers is proposed to help guarantee that the policies proposed are actually taken up back at the field scale (which is, in fact, our original ‘research scale’)

Publication metadata

Author(s): Quinn PF, Hewett CJM, Doyle A

Editor(s): Tchiguirinskaia I; Bonell M; Hubert P

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Scales in hydrology and water management

Year: 2004

Pages: 17-38

Publisher: International Association of Hydrological Sciences

Place Published: Wallingford


Notes: Scales in Hydrology and Water Management IAHS Publication 287 ISSN: 0144-7815 Proceedings of the Kovacs Colloquium, UNESCO, Paris, September 2004

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 1901502627