The quality and quantity of water resources increasingly impose constraints on human societies and ecosystem health in most regions of the Earth. This is particularly so in regions where intense catchment change has altered the hydrological balance and reduced the quality of water supplies and wetlands, and where past and projected climate change shifts the availability of surface water for consumptive and ecosystem needs.
Studies of changes in past water quality and quantities have been essential in identifying the trajectory of change and establishing the range of natural variation that existed prior to intense human modifications of catchments, notably through studies of lake acidification and eutrophication. Such approaches have the capacity to quantify natural baseline conditions, identify drivers and rates of past change and to assess the degree of departure from baseline on a broad range of contexts (Bennion and Battarbee, 2007).
Through integration with land surface, climate and watershed change the Water theme will compile and integrate records to gauge:
1) the sensitivity or resilience of waterways to catchment development,
2) the points of initiation and trajectories of change that are detrimental to sustainable societal development, and
3) the interactions between climate, surface cover and stability changes and aquatic ecosystems over time.
Plus through dynamic models, the Water theme will generate and test scenarios of future water resource availability, condition and the future state of aquatic ecosystems.