Land and Water

Water as primary commodity and as natural hazard

Fresh water is a primary commodity for life on land. It sustains food production and ecosystems, and it is the primary agent for transporting sediments and nutrients from the mountains to sea. But it can be a natural hazard when in over abundance: causing devastating floods, avalanches and landslides. 

From source to sea

A natural unit of study is the catchment or river basin. A catchment’s upstream areas, often in mountain areas, provide water and sediments to the river network. The transmission zone, shaped by rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater bodies, transports water and sediments to the rivers outlet, where sediments are deposited in floodplains, estuaries, barrier coasts, coastal wetlands, mudflats and shelf seas.

Design of integrated solutions

Studying this complex system in its entirety enables the design of integrated solutions to cope with negative effects of climate change and population growth. Research groups in this research line are providing input to societal challenges such as future food and water security, increasing flood risk and decreasing biodiversity. 

Research questions

  • Is there enough water to feed the global population in 2050?
  • How will flood risk change in the near future and in which areas?
  • How will our coastline develop under a changing sea level?
  • What will be the effect of land use change on riverine carbon and nutrient export to the oceans?
  • Why do rivers meander?
  • How do we organize access to good quality water in growing megacities in deltas?
Water is vital, because water shortage also means food shortage

Professor Marc Bierkens