Modeling Flow-Ecology Responses in the Anthropocene

Challenges for Sustainable Riverine Management

Avril C. Horne, Rory Nathan, N LeRoy Poff, Nick Bond, J. Angus Webb, Jun Wang, Andrew John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Climate change will increase water stress in many regions placing greater pressures on rivers to meet human and ecological water needs. Managing rivers experiencing water stress requires a fundamental understanding of how ecosystem processes and functions respond to natural and anthropogenic drivers of flow variability and change. The field of environmental flows meets this need by defining “flow-ecology” relationships—mathematical models linking ecological characteristics and dynamics to the underlying flow regime. However, because these relationships are most often based on historical hydrologic regimes, they implicitly assume climatic stationarity. A fundamental challenge in the Anthropocene is how to model flow-ecology relationships such that the effects of nonstationarity can be captured. In the present article, we introduce a novel approach that addresses these shortcomings and show its utility through a series of conceptual and empirical examples. The framework incorporates ecological dynamics and uncertain future hydrologic conditions, as well as nonstationarity itself, thereby providing a viable framework for modeling flow-ecology responses to inform water management in a rapidly changing climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-799
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


Cite this

Horne, A. C., Nathan, R., Poff, N. L., Bond, N., Angus Webb, J., Wang, J., & John, A. (2019). Modeling Flow-Ecology Responses in the Anthropocene: Challenges for Sustainable Riverine Management. Bioscience, 69(10), 789-799.