Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (8): 1085-1101.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1886-0

• Special Issue: Ecohydrology •     Next Articles

A review of the ecohydrology discipline: Progress, challenges, and future directions in China

XIA Jun1(), ZHANG Yongyong2,*(), MU Xingmin3,5, ZUO Qiting4, ZHOU Yujian2, ZHAO Guangju3,5   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Science, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling 712100, Shaanxi, China
    4. School of Water Conservancy & Environment, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450001, China
    5. Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest Agriculture & Forestry University, Yangling 712100, Shaanxi, China
  • Received:2021-05-11 Accepted:2021-06-21 Online:2021-08-25 Published:2021-10-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Yongyong;
  • About author:Xia Jun (1954-), Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Professor, specialized in hydrology and water resources. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    The Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA23040301);The Developmental Strategies of the Discipline of the Academic Divisions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(2017DXA);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071041)


In recent decades, the ecohydrology discipline was developed to provide theoretical and technical foundations for the protection and restoration of complex ecological systems (e.g., mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, and lakes), and to further ecological civilization construction and green development in China. In this study, the progress and challenges of the ecohydrology discipline are elaborated, and the future development directions are proposed according to international scientific frontiers and national ecological civilization construction demands. Overall, the main discipline directions are to develop new ecohydrological monitoring methods, to comprehensively understand ecohydrological mechanisms and their basic theories, to promote integration of multi-scale and multi-variable models by considering both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and to encourage multidisciplinary integration, particularly with the social sciences. Furthermore, the future research interests in China include: combining multi-source information, constructing comprehensive monitoring systems, studying spatiotemporal patterns of key ecohydrological variables and their variation characteristics, developing integrated models of ecological, hydrological, and economic processes, estimating their uncertainty; and conducting interdisciplinary studies that include the natural and social sciences. The application prospects in China are further explored for a variety of ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, rivers, lakes, wetlands, farmlands, and cities. This study will provide a reference to support the development of the ecohydrology discipline in China, and will provide a solid theoretical and technical foundation for the implementation of national ecological civilization construction.

Key words: ecohydrology discipline, theory and method, comprehensive observation, mathematical modelling, scale issue