Catchment and Eco-hydrology

At the Catchment and Eco-hydrology (CAT) research group, our efforts are geared towards a holistic understanding of intrinsically coupled hydrological and human systems. We target a better understanding of eco-hydrological processes controlling global hydrological and biogeochemical cycles, vegetation and sediment dynamics, pollutant removal, and ecosystem resilience. We rely on our competence in hydrology, geochemistry, sedimentology and environmental systems engineering.


  • Isotope hydrology: water age dating. 
  • Eco-hydrology: modelling and monitoring of plant-environment interactions, experimental biophysics from micro-scale to whole plant scale.
  • Fine sediment fluxes, sources, composition and dynamics.
  • Environmental geochemistry: origin and dynamics of trace elements in the critical zone from pristine to contaminated catchments.
  • Pedology, geochemistry, geophysics: physico-chemical characterisation and evolution of regoliths, regolith-tree geochemical interactions.


Our research activities are wired around two main questions:

  • How do eco-hydrosystems collect, store, mix and release water, solutes and matter – in the past, at present and in the future?
  • How do eco-hydrosystems interact with the atmosphere and respond to a changing climate?

More specifically, we rely on our long-term eco-hydrological monitoring program in the Weierbach experimental catchment for investigating fundamental questions:

  • How is diverse forest vegetation modifying nutrient and element cycles in the critical zone?
  • How are spatio-temporal patterns of vegetation water use and water sources controlled on homogenous soils, and how do these processes impact catchment runoff?
  • How do different streamflow generation processes combine to overall catchment response?

We complement the experimental process insights gained within the Weierbach catchment by conceptual and physically based hydrological models to decipher streamflow geographic sources and catchment travel times under a non-stationary climate.

We leverage our eco-hydrological research for supporting public and private stakeholders by:

  • Developing new environmental monitoring tools – operating at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales (e.g., targeting flashflood mechanistics).
  • Improving strategies for monitoring, forecasting and predicting our water futures, as expressed through floods, drinking water availability and quality, water for agriculture, etc.

Application areas

  • Mechanistic understanding of fundamental river basin functions of water, solutes and matter storage, mixing and release.
  • Field deployable devices for monitoring eco-hydrological processes at unprecedented temporal resolution.
  • Lab experimental setups for answering specific questions on plant functioning and plant-environment interactions.
  • Documentation of river basin response to variability/change in boundary conditions.
  • Training of experts with interdisciplinary skills for tackling increasingly complex questions in environmental systems and resources management.

Main assets


  • Isotope hydrology lab: cryogenic extraction of water from soil or plant samples, laser spectrometers for O and H stable isotope analysis in water, water dating.
  • Geochemistry lab: environmental samples mineralization and preparation in clean atmosphere for trace metal concentration and Sr-Nd-Pb isotopic ratio quantifications.
  • Environmental biophysics lab: sensor development and experimental setups to investigate leaf gas and energy exchange, plant water transport, shoot and root gas and nutrient exchange; confocal laser scanning microscope to measure and image micro-structures on and in plant leaves, twigs and roots under controlled humidity.
  • Suspended sediment monitoring: turbidimeters, laboratory and field laser diffraction particle size analysers, sediment sampling devices, UV-VIS spectrometer probes and underwater camera.

Selected publications  






Research domains
  • Environment

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Administration de la gestion de l’eau – Ministère de l'Environnement, du Climat et du Développement durable

Administration de l’environnement – Ministère de l'Environnement, du Climat et du Développement durable

Administration des services techniques de l’agriculture – Ministère de l’Agriculture, de la Viticulture et du Développement rural

Ville de Luxembourg – Service des eaux

OHB Blue Horizon Sarl

University of Luxembourg – Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie – Institut für Wasser und Gewässerentwicklung, IWG/KIT

Universität Mainz – Institut für Geowissenschaften

University of Birmingham – School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

INRAE – Unité de recherche Biogéochimie des Ecosystèmes Forestiers

Université de Strasbourg – Laboratoire d’Hydrologie et de Géochimie de Strasbourg

Université de Lorraine – Laboratoire Interdiscplinaire des Ecosystèmes Continentaux

Wageningen University – Department of Environmental Sciences, Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management

TU Delft – Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Water management department

TU Vienna – Institute of hydraulic engineering and water resources management

University of Saskatchewan – Global Institute for Water Security, School of Environment and Sustainability

School of Renewable Natural Resources, Forest and Wetland Ecohydrology Lab (Louisiana State University)

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research WSL

Forschungszentrum Jülich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, ETHZ – Department of Environmental Systems Science

Rothamsted Research, North Wyke


Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
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Further information

The three research groups of the ENVISION unit focus on (i) agro-environmental systems [AGRO group], (ii) remote sensing and natural resources modelling [REMOTE group], as well as (iii) catchment and eco-hydrology [CAT group]. All three lines of research largely connect with each other.