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SUSTech Researchers Successfully Completed a Major Study of Integrated Eco-hydrological Processes in the Heihe River Basin


On March 4, a review panel organized by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSCF) convened in Beijing to evaluate the progress and outcome of the research project entitled “System Behaviors and Regulation of Ecohydrological Processes in the Middle and Lower Heihe River Basin”. This project is an integration of other projects under the major research program “An Integrative Study of the Ecological-Hydrological Processes in the Heihe River Basin” supported by the NSFC with a total funding of approximately 200 million RMB. The review panel consisting of 15 prominent scientists was led by Prof. Cheng Guodong, chair of the advisory committee for the Heihe Program and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Also attending were Director Fu Bojie, and Senior Associate Director Chai Yucheng, of the Geoscience Directorate of NSFC.

Prof. Zheng Chunmiao, principal investigator of the integration project and dean of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at SUSTech, presented the key findings and research results to the NCSF panel, and answered all the questions raised by the review panelists. Afterwards, the review panel voted to give the project an “excellent” grade for successfully completing all the requirements and meeting all milestones. The project was then officially approved for completion.

This project integrated the observational data and research findings from other existing projects for the middle and lower Heihe River Basin to formulate a comprehensive conceptual model and coupled numerical model for the hydrological cycle in the middle and lower Heihe River Basin, accounting for complex ecosystem functioning in the water-limited environment. A new Hydrological-Ecological Integrated watershed-scale FLOW model (or HEIFLOW) was developed and calibrated using multiple sources of data from the region, including hydraulic, thermal, chemical and ecological from both ground-based and remote sensing measurements. The calibrated flow model was used to compute detailed local and regional flow budgets for the middle and lower Heihe River Basin, and to understand the complex interactions between small-scale ecological processes and larger-scale hydrologic cycle. The success of this integration project has provided important insights and scientific basis for more sustainable water resources management in the Heihe River Basin.

Illustration of the integrated eco-hydrological model for the middle and lower Heihe River Basin in Northwest China

The integration project was led by Prof. Chunmiao Zheng, first at Peking University and now at SUSTech from 2013-2016. The research team at SUSTech included Associate Professor. Zheng Yi, Research Assistant Professor Tian Yong, and Post-doctoral Research Fellow Han Feng. Other collaborating institutions included Beijing Normal University, Chinese Agricultural University, Tongji University and Institute of Cold and Arid Region Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

By the end of 2016, the integration project has produced 59 academic papers, including 43 on SCI journals and 15 on national Chinese core journals. A highlight is 6 papers on Water Resources Research, the leading journal in the water resources discipline. Other notable journals with published papers from the project include Scientific Reports, Advances in Water Resources, Journal of Hydrology, Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, Environmental Modeling & Software, Agricultural Water Management, and Journal of Hydrometeorology. Other research results included several modeling software tools and a series of manographs still in preparation.

Artificial oasis in the middle Heihe River Basin

Populus euphratica in the lower Heihe River Basin

About the SUSTech School of Environmental Science and Engineering: The School was established in May 2015 to provide a new platform for performing cutting-edge research and for training a new generation of environmental scientists, engineers and managers who are interdisciplinary, innovative and global-thinking. The School offers a comprehensive suite of undergraduate and graduate curricula, providing students with opportunities to develop innovative, contemporary skills and knowledge in their chosen discipline. Currently the school has 20 full time faculty members, many of whom have distinctions such as “1000 Talents Program” and NSFC “Outstanding Young Investigators”.