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 journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (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


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