Global change, landscape ageing and the pulse of catchments

EGU Leonardo Conference Series on Earth's Hydrological Cycle

From 16-18 October 2019, as part of the "EGU Leonardo Conference Series on Earth's Hydrological Cycle", the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), in partnership with the University of Luxembourg and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), will organize the conference "Global change, landscape ageing and the pulse of catchments" at the Belval Innovation Campus.

A cardinal challenge in hydrological sciences is how global change is going to affect/impact the ‘pulse of catchments’. The design and implementation of any future water resources management strategy is indeed tightly bound to the challenges posed by non-stationarity. Hydrological systems are known to be subject to continuous changes. This variability eventually determines the diversity of catchments, as well as their intrinsic property of changing systems (e.g. through the transfer of energy (evaporation) and water (erosion)). While we are still struggling with the natural variability of hydrological systems, we are facing a much bigger challenge with the increasing influence of anthropogenic pressures (expressed for example through changes in climate and land use, pollution of soils and water bodies). In this context, stationarity of hydrological systems as a fundamental assumption clearly stands out. Having provided a conceptual backbone for a (rather successful) engineering-centric approach to hydrological problems (e.g. floods, droughts), this assumption does not withstand the effects of two phenomena that have recently emerged: the rapid increase of global change related impacts on hydrological systems and the increasing complexity of processes and feed-back mechanisms that are directly or indirectly related to these impacts.

It seems obvious that catchments as open geo-ecosystems will likely react to global change with ecological and morphological adaptions to climate and human induced changes. However, the kind and degree of these adaptions and their feedbacks on the catchment hydrological functioning are far from being from being obvious. This implies that hydrological projections into the future might be more than uncertain – they might be biased and thus systematically wrong. This is because all currently available model concepts rely on a stationary catchment “skeleton” represented by stationary parameterizations. As these have been trained on past datasets they represent the past transformation properties of the catchments. Inevitably, the cardinal challenge for hydrological sciences is now to provide new ways to deal with non-stationarity of hydrological systems.


During the 2019 EGU Leonardo topical conference, we intend to assess the current status quo and potential ways forward on (i) catchment evolution conceptualization, (ii) conciliation of (dynamic) catchment complexity and (static) model complexity, as well as (iii) re-connection of field research and hydrological modelling.

We plan to wire the conference around three complementary sessions:

  • Session 1: Catchment structure, functioning and age – is there a connection?
  • Session 2: Moving beyond the diagnosis of catchment complexity and heterogeneity
  • Session 3: Mesoscale experiments and environmental simulators – the missing link between models and field research?!!!

Abstracts submission

Abstracts were only accepted though the online abstract submission system. Abstract submission is now closed.

All manuscripts must be in English and are limited to 500 words.
See the topics for which authors are invited to submit research papers and posters in the section "Topical Sessions" below.

Poster presentation

  • All posters should be written and presented in English, the official language of the event.
  • Posters must be printed in portrait format A0.

Important dates

  • Deadline for abstract submission: 30 August 2019
  • !!NEW!! - Notifications to the authors: 13 September 2019
  • !!NEW!! - Authors registration: 18 September 2019
  • EGU Leonardo Conference: 16-17-18 October 2019

Scientific Committee

  • Markus Hrachowitz (TU Delft, The Netherlands)
  • Sibylle Haßler (KIT Karlsruhe, Germany)
  • Uwe Ehret (KIT, Karlsruhe, Germany)
  • Ralf Loritz (KIT, Karlsruhe, Germany)
  • Conrad Jakisch (TU Braunschweig, Germany)
  • Lieke Melsen (Wageningen University, The Netherlands)
  • Anke Hildebrandt (University of Jena, Germany)
  • Núria Martínez-Carreras (LIST, Luxembourg)
  • Hubert Savenije (TU Delft, The Netherlands)
  • Ulrike Scherer (KIT Karlsruhe, Germany)


The Conference will last 3 days with oral presentations during the day, followed by poster sessions in the late afternoon. After the poster session on the second day of the conference, we will organize a Town Hall meeting, providing a platform for open discussions on the most pressing research questions in hydrology, pending knowledge/conceptual gaps or technological limitations, as well as potential new avenues to be explored in the future. We plan to have Prof. Murugesu Sivapalan (The School of Earth, Society & Environment - Illinois), Prof. Hubert H.G. Savenije (TU Delft) and Prof, Jeff McDonnell (University of Saskatchewan) to lead the discussions during the Town Hall meeting. A summary and outlook session (presented by the session chairs), followed by a plenary discussion, will close the conference on day three.

Currently there are two ongoing Special issues in leading EGU Journals, which are well aligned with the topics of this Leonardo Conference and thus provide an ideal outlet for key contributions.

  • Linking landscape organisation and hydrological functioning: from hypotheses and observations to concepts, models and understanding. Joint SI Hydrology and Earth System Sciences and Earth System Science Data. Guest Editors: L. van Schaik, T. Hohenbrink, C. Jackisch, H. Laudon, L. Pfister, S.K. Hassler, M. Renner, H. McMillan, T. Blume, P. Gentine, and P. Saco.
  • Thermodynamics and optimality in the Earth system and its subsystems. Joint SI Earth System Dynamics and Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. Guest Editors: A. Kleidon, P. Cox, H. Savenije, E. Zehe, M. Crucifix, and S. Hergarten.

Invited talks

  • Theme 1: Patricia Saco and Axel Kleidon
  • Theme 2: Grey Nearing and Anneli Guthke
  • Townhall meeting: Martijn Westhoff and Brian Berkowitz


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

08.30 - 9.00 Welcome coffee & Registration

09.00 - 09.20 Welcome speech

Session 1
09.20 - 10.00
Patricia Saco
Keynote: Changes in catchment connectivity due to climate change and anthropogenic activities: coevolution of dryland catchment structures

10.00 - 10.20
Dominik Demand
Using the stokes flow physical principles to define an appropriate scale for infiltatration modelling.

10:20 - 10:40
Remko Nijzink
Using the Net Carbon Profit for optimizing vegetation properties along a precipitation gradient

10.40 - 11:00
Scott Allen
Partitioning of seasonal precipitation into ET and discharge in Switzerland

11.00 - 11.30 Coffee break

Session 2
11.30 - 12.10
Guthke Anneli
Keynote: Justifiability is key - Bayesian analysis of system and model complexity

12.30 - 12.50
Pelletier Antoine
Digging out the memory of catchments: towards the assimilation of piezometric data into a low-flow forecasting model

12.50 - 13.10
Bortoli Da Silva Marina / Uwe Ehret
Dynamical clustering: An approach to analyze dynamical similarity and reduce redundancies in distributed hydrological modeling

13:10 - 13:30  
Maik Renner
How well can we model the diurnal cycle of turbulent heat fluxes?

13.30 - 14.30 Lunch

Session 3
14:30 - 15:10
Ophélie Fovet
Keynote: Hydro-biogeochemical processes related to C, N and P transfer to surface water: from processes identification in headwater observatories to the assessment of their relevance at regional scale and of their long-term responses to climatic drivers

15:10 - 15:30
Kevin McGuire
Revisiting the Hewlett and Hibbert hillslope drainage experiment and tracking downslope nitrate transport

15:30 - 15:50
Anke Hildebrandt
Tracking spatial variation of water and matter fluxes from the top of the canopy to the bottom of the rooting zone

15:50 -16:10
Poster pitch

16.10 - 16.30 Coffee break

16.30 - 18.00 Townhall Meeting

Thursday, October 17, 2019

08.30 - 9.00 Welcome coffee & Registration

Session 1

09.00 - 09.20
Fabian Maier
Changes in hydrological characteristics and overland flow during hillslope aging for moraines in the Swiss Alps

09.20 - 09.40
Jintao Liu
Improving hydrological modeling through understanding of catchment structures under the framework of soil thickness evolution

09.40 - 10.00
Gelmini et al
Using tracers and hydrological hysteresis analysis to assess process consistency in a catchment conceptual model application

10.00 - 10.20
Markus Hrachowitz
The ecosystem is the water manager of catchments

10.20 - 10.40 Coffee break

Session 3
10:40 - 11:20
Martijn Westhoff
Keynote: Organizing principles in a box – The maximum power principle tested within a sandpit

11:20 - 11:40
April James
The Isotope Hydrology of the Muskoka River Watershed, Ontario, Canada

11:40 - 12:00
Philipp Kraft
Groundwater and stream interaction in a small and ordinary catchment: More mysteries than expected

12:00 - 12:20
Lieke Melsen
Hydrological model sensitivity to parameters is related to climate: Is this a good or a bad thing?

12:20 - 12:40
Karsten Schulz
Efficient parameter regionalization for spatially distributed hydrological models

12.40 - 14.00 Lunch

Session 2
14.00 - 14.20
Knapp Julia L. A.
The whole is different from the sum of its parts: The role of hydrological connectivity and catchment conditions on the inter-event variability of concentration-discharge relationships

14.20 - 14.40
Metzger Johanna C.
From the canopy to the deeper subsurface: Tree-induced water flux bypasses

14.40 - 15.00  
Rodriguez Nicolas
Testing the truncation of travel times with StorAge Selection functions using deuterium and tritium as tracers

15.00 - 15.20
Hauhs Michael
Are there incommensurable state variables in catchments? On the integration of bio- and geo-aspects of a long-term catchment study at Lange Bramke (Harz)

16.00 - 18.00 Poster discussion + Coffee break

19.30 Conference dinner

Friday, October 18, 2019

08.00 - 8.30 Welcome coffee & Registration

Session 1

08:30 - 09:10
Axel Kleidon
Keynote: What can thermodynamics tell us about catchment function, organization, and evolution?

09.10 - 09.30
Stan Schymanski
A blueprint for thermodynamically consistent box models and a test bed for thermodynamic optimality principles

09.30 - 09.50
Erwin Zehe
Energy, mass and information - elements of an evolutionary concept of catchments as systems of adaptive complexity

09.50 - 10.10
Laurent Pfister
Freshwater mollusks as long-term and high-resolution stream water isotope recorders

10.10 - 10.30 Coffee break

Session 2
10.30 - 11.10
Nearing Grey
Keynote: Using Embedding Layers in Deep Learning Networks to Understand and Complexity, Similarity, and Nonstationarity in Rainfall/Runoff Processes

11.10 - 11.30
Nathaniel Chaney
Harnessing big data to rethink land heterogeneity in Earth System models

11.30 - 11.50
Markus Hrachowitz
The macroscale perspective to hydrology: does it have any value?

11.50 - 12.10
Ralf Loritz / Erwin Zehe
From catchment organization to dynamic functional similarity

12.10 - 12.30 Farewell


Download here the PDF poster list (Format : 19KB)







Share this page:


    Global change, landscape ageing and the pulse of catchments

    Register here!

    Practical Infos

    Venue: University of Luxembourg | Maison du Savoir - 2, avenue de l'Université | L-4365 ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE

    Dates: 16-17-18 October 2019

    Language: English


    Registration fee:
    Standard fee: 200 € VAT excl.
    Student fee: 140 € VAT excl.
    Gala dinner: 70 € VAT excl.


    Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
    Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
    Send an e-mail
    Register here!