Unravelling mystery of streamflow generation wins major European award

16 Apr 2018

A research paper improving understanding of streamflow generation has earned a University of Queensland PhD graduate a major prize this week at the European Geosciences Union general assembly in Vienna.

2017 School of Earth and Environmental Sciences graduate Dr Ralph Trancoso is lead author of the paper, “Regional variation in streamflow drivers across a continental climatic gradient” (Ecohydrology 2017;10:e1816) chosen to receive the 2017 Ecohydrology Early Career Award.

Dr Trancoso said the paper looked at streamflow, a “fascinating variable” which integrated a range of processes happening at catchment scale.

“Climate is the primary control of streamflow supplying moisture and energy at atmospheric level, but once the water touches the ground, properties such as vegetation, soils and topography determine how the water ultimately becomes streamflow,” he said.

“While this is a widely accepted reasoning, the extent to what each catchment property controls specific streamflow characteristics and whether it varies across regions was unclear, so the paper addresses this knowledge gap.”

He said that the drivers of streamflow characteristics were scale and region dependent, and different regions had specific mechanisms governing streamflow.

“In general, climate, vegetation, and soil moisture play key roles in explaining streamflow characteristics in all regions, while soil properties help to explain regional variability of streamflow regimes,” he said.

“By revealing the processes governing streamflow variation at biogeographic regions, we have also provided insights on how biodiversity management regions can link with water resource management, and help connecting ecology and hydrology – that is, Ecohydrology.”

Dr Trancoso’s supervisor, Professor Stuart Phinn said the award recognised outstanding work by a scientist as first author within six years of completing their PhD.

The paper is co-authored by Professor Phinn, Dr Tim McVicar of CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, and Dr Joshua Larsen and Professor Clive McAlpine of UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Dr Trancoso now works for the Global Change Institute at UQ in a joint role with the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science, making regional high-resolution climate change projections for Queensland.

Media: Dr Ralph Trancoso, r.trancoso@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3170 5713 or +61 (0)402075541.