The Department of Physical Geography is focused on the river basin as the natural spatial unit to study earth surface processes and to evaluate societal impacts. There are four distinct zones:

  1. Source areas of water, sediment, and contaminants;
  2. Transport zones where surface water and nearsurface water dominate hydrological processes;
  3. Deposition areas of deltas and estuaries such as the Netherlands;
  4. Land-ocean interface.

Globally, river basins are under enormous pressure from urbanization, land-use change, river and coastal engineering, dam building, excessive drainage, eutrophication, water pollution, ecosystem destruction, and groundwater and surface water overuse. Projected climate change and sea-level rise will aggravate the impacts of these developments. The Departments deliberate focus on process and system understanding is a prerequisite for disentangling natural and human-induced change.