Water resources, in the face of global climate changes, become one of the critical factors for achieving good ecological status of freshwater ecosystems and the Millennium Development Goals of the UN. Ecohydrology (EH) is a sub-discipline of hydrology focused on ecological aspects of the hydrological cycle. It refers specifically to two phases of the hydrological cycle: terrestrial plant - water - soil interactions and aquatic biota - hydrology interactions.
The background of "aquatic ecohydrology" was established in the framework of the UNESCO MAB "Ecotone" Programme (Zalewski, Schiemer, Thorpe 2001). The concept of integrating hydrology and ecology was formulated and developed in the framework of the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme IHP V and VI (Zalewski et al. 1997, Zalewski 2000, 2002, Zalewski & Robarts 2002, Chicharo et al. 2000, Wolanski et al 2002, Janauer 20004, Trepel 2006, Timczenko et al. 2002, Harper et al.2004).
The main body of ecohydrology theory is based on the assumption that sustainable use of freshwater resources in man-modified landscapes is highly complex. It is dependent not only on our ability to reduce emission of pollutants, but to a great extent on the ability of the environment to restore and to regulate water and nutrient circulation towards the enhancement of ecosystem capacity, sufficient to absorb human impact. EH provides a novel tool for regulation of ecological processes from the molecular to the landscape scale, defined as the "dual regulation" rule - regulation of biota by hydrology and vice versa (Zalewski 2006). From the ecosystem management and conservation perspective this paradigm provides a conceptual and methodological framework for understanding how ecosystem properties can be used as management tools for achieving harmony between man's needs and environmental potential. During the development of the framework of UNESCO IHP phases V and VI, ecohydrology has become a transdisciplinary science. It integrates hydrology and ecology, by providing hypotheses valid for both scientific disciplines, and by incorporating into those hypotheses problem solving components to satisfy the needs of society.
The European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology under the auspices of UNESCO has grown out of the International Centre for Ecology (ICE) of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The scientific profile of the ICE was based on Ecological Bioenergetics, developed in the 1970s through the International Biological Programme (IBP) (Grodzińki, Klekowski, Duncan 1975, Klekowski Fisher 1993). One of the achievements of the IBP programme was the reduction of ecological processes to physics, providing fundamentals for dialogue between ecologists and hydrologists in the 1990s.
The theoretical and empirical background for formulation of ecohydrological principles was developed in the 1980s and 1990s at the Department of Applied Ecology, University of Lodz (Zalewski, Naiman 1985, Zalewski et al. 1985, 1991, Zalewski, Schiemer, Thorpe 2001).
By agreement between the President of the Academy of Science and the Rector of the University of Lodz, the long cooperation between these institutions was formalised in 2004. From that time on, new dimensions of science and education at international and national levels have been enhanced strongly.
The scientific profile of the Centre is focused on further development of ecohydrological science and its implementation for restoring freshwater resources in the framework of the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme. Priority is being given to delivering tools for implementing the European Water Framework Directive as part of Poland's national cooperation.
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professor Maciej Zalewski