Ecohydrology: What’s in a Name?

Ecohydrology is the study of the connections between living things and water resources Credit: Free Nature Stock

By D. Scott Mackay

As AGU celebrates its hundredth anniversary I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a century of ecohydrology research by AGU hydrologists. Wait! Back up. Isn’t ecohydrology a shiny new thing? The answer to this question depends on whether you define the science by its name (i.e., ‘shiny new thing’ + ‘ology’) or by the knowledge it accumulates through study or practice.

Let us start with the latter. The broadest definition of ecohydrology I have deduced from the literature is that it is the study of the connections between living things and water resources. Shiny perhaps. Not new. Consider, for example, Dixon’s theory on how plants lift water from the soil to their leaves and transpire this water out to the atmosphere to stay alive (Dixon & Joly, 1894). This classic work fits our definition of ecohydrology, and it is accumulated knowledge implicitly known to hydrologists because transpiration is a major component of the Earth’s water circulation system.

So what of the former idea of defining ecohydrology in terms of its name? Perhaps naming the ‘ology’ and establishing the bin in which to accumulate knowledge helps to promote the science and increase the rate of publications in it. That sounds like a potentially testable hypothesis.


Earth & Space Science News

Published May 13, 2019

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