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Aquatic Systems Science and Management – University of Reading

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Aquatic Systems Science and Management

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Overview of theme

The University of Reading has long been recognised as a centre of national and international excellence in water science research in the UK, with expertise in a wide range of water research areas spanning the range from physical to chemical and biological sciences. In RAE2008, the panel for Geography and Environmental Studies recognised the 'world-leading research [on] aquatic environments' being undertaken at the University of Reading in its final report and grading. The research in aquatic systems, science and management involves researchers from the School of Human & Environmental Sciences, the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and the Faculty of Agriculture, and has strong collaborative links with the Walker Institute. There are also strong collaborative links with many water and environmental research groups nationally and internationally, many of them world-leaders in the field of water research.

The group conducts multi-disciplinary research on the structure, function, problems, modelling and management of a range of aquatic environments, and is funded by the research councils UK (NERC, EPSRC, BBSRC), the EU, Government departments (DEFRA, Department of Business Innovation and Skills), agencies and organisations (Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Natural England) and a wide range industrial sponsors (UK Water Industry Research, Atomic Weapons Establishment).

Particular areas of expertise rest in the nutrient hydrochemistry of lakes, rivers and wetlands; biogeochemical interactions between soil, sediment and water domains; impacts of disruption of the global macronutrient cycles (Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus) on aquatic environmental function, evaluation of the impact of land use and management on water quality at the plot to large catchment scale, and the deployment of novel sensor technologies to resolve resource and scaling issues in aquatic environmental research. Out staff combine field research, laboratory experiments and catchment scale manipulation of land use and management practices with the development of a range of modelling approaches to simulate system behaviour at a range of scales. Model development is undertaken both to underpin process studies, to provide robust tools for integrated environmental management, and to allow simulation of the behaviour of aquatic environments and their catchments in response to natural and human-induced environmental change. Our models span scales from process-based modelling at the finest level of detail, to systems-based modelling at the catchment to regional scale. Our expertise also extends to the detailed biology of aquatic systems, the impact of system manipulation on in-stream ecosystem structure, function and resilience, and the impact of alien invasive species on food web structures in UK waters. 

Current research projects

Current research projects which we are involved in include:

  • The NERC Virtual Observatories programme

  • The Defra Demonstration Test Catchments programme 

  • The UKWIR project investigating Phosphorus contributions from Wastewater
    Treatment discharges to watercourses and their long-term environmental impacts

  • The EPSRC Novel Sensor Technologies project

  • The EU FP7 REFRESH project

  • The NERC Changing Water Cycle programme under which we have had 2 projects
    funded: Soil Water - Climate Feedbacks in Europe in the 21st Century (SWELTER-21); Hydrological extremes and feedbacks in the changing water cycle.

Further details of our aquatics research can be found on the Earth System Science Research Group website.

The University of Reading is also a partner institution of HYDRA, the HYDrosciences Research Associations for strategic multi-disciplinary research in water science, policy and management. Membership comprises water science research groups from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the British Geological Survey, Imperial College London, Queen Mary College, University of London, University College London, and the universities of Reading and Oxford. It's main objective is to undertake strategic hydrosciences research through collaboration between member organisations, policy makers and industry.

View of a lake

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