The river Saal flows inot the river Elbe (Germany). Photo: André Künzelmann/UFZ

Department of Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis

What do aquatic ecosystems such as rivers, lakes and groundwater mean for humans and the environment?  What is the impact of our actions, such as changes to land and water use, more intensive agriculture and climate change, on them? What is the relationship between hydrology and ecology? Why is it so difficult to implement real water protection measures? What is the role of politics, the authorities, associations, NGOs, business, occupants of riparian or littoral regions and the population? And how is it possible to bring them together when they have such disparate interests?

The answer to this and many other questions is sustainable water management under changing economic, demographic and climate conditions. The challenge is to find and establish a balance between the functionality of aquatic ecosystems and all of the changes and usage that have an impact on them. This requires a systematic approach.

The main focus of the work carried out in the Department of Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis (ASAM) is therefore integrated analysis. We investigate the behaviour of aquatic ecosystems in relation to natural dynamics and anthropogenic influence on drainage basin scale. We analyse hydrological-ecological processes in order to understand them and to be able to predict how they will evolve under different boundary conditions such as water protection measures or more intensive use. To this end, we bring together knowledge and experience from natural, engineering and social sciences and implement them in the form of concepts for the integrated management of water resources. We focus on various river basins in Europe and in hydrologically sensitive regions in other continents.

Our methods and skills include monitoring hydrological-ecological processes along natural and anthropogenic environmental gradients in river basins, the quantitative modelling of these processes on different scales, working with complex environmental databases and developing environmental indicators for water management. Collaborating closely with our partners from practice, we test the results of our research and translate them into practical applications.

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