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Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for the Analysis of Hydrological Systems

Water expert Prof. Thorsten Wagener, Ph.D. Photo: Andreas Kubatzki

Contracting authority (client):

Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung / BMBF

Project period:

01/2021 till 12/2025

Project description

Many hydrological services that we have historically relied on to sustain our natural ecosystems and meet human needs are being irretrievably affected by human activity. These impairments are reflected in decreasing snow cover due to human-caused climate change, declining aquifers due to excessive groundwater abstraction, significantly distorted runoff regimes due to dam construction and agricultural abstraction, and altered water quality conditions, e.g. B. through increased amounts of nutrients or (micro) plastics that get into our environment. At the same time, we are facing significantly altered hydrological hazards such as floods and droughts due to climate change. These are just a few examples of human-caused hydrological change, where a growing population's demands for energy, water, food and habitat are radically altering our environment. The cumulative impacts of growing water demand, dwindling resources, and increasing uncertainty due to increased hydro-meteorological variability and change are leading to a decline in water security.

We are only slowly beginning to understand the effects of changes in the water cycle on society and ecology and how society and the environment react to these changes. Water is key to societal resilience and provides the basis for diverse ecosystems that are prerequisites for future hydrological ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation. The increasing decline in hydrological services and the increasing impact of hydro-meteorological hazards are affecting water security to such an extent that the problem has been dubbed the global "water crisis". Ensuring water security in the future is undoubtedly one of the most important concerns of our society. Our ability to develop appropriate management and adaptation strategies depends on our ability to anticipate the impact of change. We urgently need to address the issues relevant to this, including: What knowledge, data and models do we need to provide a sound basis for water-related decisions in a changing and uncertain world where water, environment and society are intertwined are connected? How can hydrological risks be assessed in a changing world and how can a risk assessment help to reduce future damage?

The main goals of the AvH professorship for the analysis of hydrological systems are:

  1. Improving quantitative understanding in large-scale hydrology.
  2. Improved uncertainty estimation and assignment in complex environmental models.
  3. Robust assessment of global change impacts on hydrological performance and hazards.
  4. Improved knowledge transfer to the insurance industry in uncertainty assessment

Water expert Prof. Thorsten Wagener, Ph.D. Photo: Andreas Kubatzki