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Catchment and ecosystem resilience

Taking a catchment-based approach to understanding the resilience of ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Key contacts

Professor Isabelle Durance

Professor Isabelle Durance

Professor and Director of the Water Research Institute

+44 (0)7800 774491 / +44 (0)29 2087 4484
Professor Max Munday

Professor Max Munday

Director of Welsh Economy Research Unit

+44 (0)29 2087 5089
Professor Steve Ormerod

Professor Steve Ormerod


+44 (0)29 2087 5871


There are real challenges in managing water resources for different uses of ecosystems, known as ecosystem services. These services include clean water for human uses, sustainable fisheries and natural flood management. Current evidence shows that current rates of exploitation are degrading freshwater ecosystems faster than any other ecosystem types

One contested issue is at what geographical level decisions on our water resources are most effectively made. National and devolved governments in the UK have increasingly taken the view that more locally focussed decision making, responsibility and strategic action at the level of discrete water catchments needs to be in place to ensure improvement in our water environment. This is a move to a catchment-based approach.

While management and coordinated action at the catchment scale brings advantages, there are significant challenges in terms of how best to develop coordinated responses and inclusive actions by stakeholders who both use and benefit from the scare water resources, and regulatory institutions charged with balancing pressures on the resource.

In this theme, our researchers work across a range of scales and test catchments to create the evidence base needed for decision making.


Catchment systems

Find out more about some of the catchments our researchers are working on in Wales, the UK and beyond:

PhD projects

Environmental triggers for Geosmin production in freshwater ecosystems

  • Student: Annalise Hooper
  • Lead supervisor: Rupert Perkins
  • Partner: Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

Diagnosing the reasons for biodiversity decline in rural rivers

  • Student: Emma Pharaoh
  • Lead supervisor: Ian Vaughan
  • Partners: Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales

Long-term environmental influences on the ecology and conservation of river birds

  • Student: Rachel Shepherd
  • Lead supervisor: Steve Ormerod
  • Partner: River Wye Preservation Trust

Fish swimming dynamics and behaviour in the vicinity of a fish exclusion screen

Developing novel mathematical models to better understand the spread of Gyrodactylus infection dynamics across three different population of fish and three different parasite strains

Past initiatives


DURESS project

The NERC funded Diversity of Upland Rivers for Ecosystem Service Sustainability project is part of a major Research Council initiative to assess the role of biodiversity in delivering key ecosystem services on which society relies.



Managing Aquatic ecosystems and water Resources under multiple Stress (MARS).

Theme members