Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Horizon lecture

CANCELLED: River network as ecological corridors

Unfortunately, Professor Andrea Rinaldo has to cancel his Horizon lecture.

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River basins are a natural laboratory for the integration of hydrological, ecological and geomorphological processes. In this Horizon Lecture, Andrea Rinaldo addresses essential processes sustaining human life and societies taking place along dendritic structures - suggesting that indeed they can be predicted.

The lecture: Andrea Rinaldo of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) & Università di Padova: 

From Fractals to cholera outbreaks: River network as ecological corridors

Population migrations and human settlements historically proceeded along river networks to follow water supply routes. Riparian systems, critically important ecosystems positioned along streams and rivers, play crucial roles in their watersheds and in the loss of biodiversity proceeding at unprecedented rates within the course of History.  Waterborne disease like cholera, schistosomiasis or PKD thrive in pristine or engineered watercourses. Is there a linkage?

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Here, I shall focus on the noteworthy scientific perspectives provided by ecohydrological studies centered on river networks viewed as ecological corridors for species, populations and pathogens of waterborne disease and described mathematically as the fractal support for reactive transport.  The Lecture overviews a number of tightly related topics, of course idiosynchratically related to my own research work.

Devastating water-borne disease, such as cholera, and invading foreign species spread through water bodies linked by river networks. Although the dynamics of such systems has been extensively studied, existing approaches were mostly within the framework of mean-field or two-dimensional landscapes that ignore directionality of dispersal implied by the network acting as environmental matrix. How does connectivity within a river network affect the emergent spreading of water-borne infections?  Does the river basin act as a template for biodiversity? Are there hydrologic controls on the spreading of water-borne disease?  To address such questions, the Horizon Lecture addresses, through direct and indirect data collections and comparative mathematical analyses, the study of:  biodiversity in the river basin (in particular, by studying comparatively observational data and dynamic models of freshwater fish in large and very large river systems, and of riparian vegetation); hydrologic controls on cholera epidemics (and possibly of other water-borne diseases); biological invasions along fractal river networks.  The Lecture aims at make a compelling case for the interest in the understanding of the functioning of river basins as a whole, including its ecosystem structure and function.

Given the great variety and yet the deep similarities shown by fluvial networks in Nature across scales -- and notwithstanding the variety and complexity of the ecosystems involved -- one is tempted to conclude that there exists a unique, coherent conceptual thread of ecohydrological nature that joins seemingly disparate subjects. From such a raw material, a general theory emerges on the role of dendritic geometries as environmental support for ecological dynamics and processes operating on fluvial networks and connected water pathways – a fun and possibly even instructive novel research field.

Light refreshments will be served before the lecture, which starts at 16.15 pm on Thursday 01 of November in Egget, The Student Centre. Everybody is welcome!


About the speaker:

Andrea Rinaldo
Professor of Hydrology and Water Resources, 
Director, Laboratory of Ecohydrology ECHO/ISTE/ENAC
Facultè ENAC, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne 

Transport phenomena in the hydrological cycle. Hydrogeomorphology. Ecohydrology. Stochastic Modeling of Natural Phenomena. Networks in Nature. Scaling in Ecosystems. Ecohydrology. River networks as ecological corridors for species, populations, pathogens.